Friday, July 8, 2011

Lower Hermosa Creek Trail

The Hermosa Creek Trail System in the San Juan National Forest has 14 designated trails that offer multi use opportunities for hikers, bikers, horses, and motorized. The South Hermosa Trail Head is about 10 miles north of Durango in southwest Colorado. Turn west from Highway 550 at County Road 201 just north of the bridge across Hermosa Creek and just south of a railroad crossing.

It is a few miles of paved county road and gravel Forest Road 576 to the well developed trail head area. There are campsites associated with the trail head and there are facilities for horse trailer parking. Hikers starting here can follow the Hermosa Creek Trail or the Jones Creek Trail.
I followed the Hermosa Creek Trail which follows high along the shoulder of Hermosa Creek. The forest at the start is Ponderosa Pines and Gambel Oaks with Spruce and Fir visible along the creek. The Hermosa Creek Trail doesn’t get any ATV use as it is too narrow. Mountain bikes and horses pass along here with hikers.
An interpretive sign at the trail head says that these are old growth Ponderosa Pines and there are some particularly large examples along the trail. I didn’t see any large wildlife but elk and black bears live in this area along with elusive bobcats and coyotes.
After a couple of miles there are some views across the canyon toward some of the peaks to the west. Aspen trees also start to appear. There are several small creeks that cross the trail.

 After about 3.7 miles there is a trail junction with the Dutch Creek Trail. The trail junction is clear but I didn’t see any trail signs. I stayed left on the Hermosa Creek Trail that descended about 500 feet of elevation in about 1 mile to a small bridge and a campsite area. It took me about 2:05 hours to arrive at the bridge and I turned around there.

My return hike took 2:15 hours for a total hike of 4:30 hours for about 9 miles. On the return there was a 15 minute sprinkle of summer rain. I carried and drank 3 liters of water on an 80 F degree day. During my hike I saw 4 bikers and 2 other hikers. There was a crew with 4 horses doing some spraying of noxious weeds.

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