Friday, August 19, 2011

Big Canyon Trail-Durango

The Big Canyon Trail is part of an extensive network of trails in the Telegraph Trail System on the south side of Durango in southwest Colorado.

The Big Canyon Trailhead is somewhat hidden behind an auto dealer on the northeast corner of Highway 550/160 and Dominguez Drive, across the highway from the Walmart. There is a marked parking area about 100 yards west of the trailhead. The Carbon Junction Trailhead and Sale Barn Trailhead are nearby alternate entry points into this system.

Many of the Durango City trails have good trail map signs at trail junctions that make it clear where you are and where the alternate trail choices lead. These trails are open to hikers, horses, and mountain bikes with most users probably riding bikes. At the Big Canyon Trailhead there is an interpretive sign explaining the importance of this wild area to Elk and Deer as winter range, depending on how severe the winter is.

At the trailhead there are two trails visible, the main trail leading into the canyon bottom and a thin trail descending from the mesa top. The main trail leads along a dry drainage through Gambel Oak, Pinon Pine, Utah Juniper and the lighter blue green Rocky Mountain Red Junipers. Bike riders describe this segment as swooping.

There are several large rock outcrops visible along the canyon bottom. After about 1.6 miles there is a trail junction with the South Rim Trail and a good map sign. I made a left turn onto the South Rim Trail.

This segment of the South Rim Trail returns toward the Big Canyon Trailhead along the mesa top, and overlooks the canyon bottom where I had just hiked. When it reaches the trailhead overlook, there is the thin side trail that was visible at the trailhead. I followed the steep side trail back to the trailhead to complete a 3.2 mile loop.

My short loop hike took 1:15 hours on an 85 F degree mid August day. I didn’t see anyone else while hiking but one mountain bike swooped past me just as I finished.

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