Vallecito Lake is located about 20 miles east of Durango in southwest Colorado. The Vallecito Dam on the Pine River was built in 1938-41 and created the 2720 acre Vallecito Lake.
In 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation is charging a day use fee of $3 for use of lake facilities including the Walk Path, with self serve pay stations at convenient use points.
This southwest segment trail follows closely along the shore for about 15 minutes, and then climbs up to the paved County Road to avoid private property. The road segment ends at the south Public Boat Ramp.
There are mostly unobstructed lake views with the mountains of the Weminuche Wilderness coming into view. There are a few markers along this segment identifying some of the trees and plants. The south end of Vallecito Lake is dominated by Ponderosa Pine forest with a Gambel Oak understory.
There are a few Douglas Firs visible with Cottonwoods close to the shore. In early August there were some, but not many wildflowers along the Path.
The Kaa-vi Nuu-ci Tuvu-pu Mountain Ute Park is also in this area. This park was developed in 2007-09 and includes a wetlands area valuable to waterfowl. There is also a Trailhead for a hike to Lake Eileen with an interpretive sign for the Weminuche Wilderness. It took me about 2:30 hours of walking to arrive at the northwest side after about 6 miles.
Along the northeast side of Vallecito Lake, the commercial development is reduced and the paved road ends. Segments of the Walk Path resume where possible parallel to the Forest Road and there are good views across the lake.
South of the Middle Mountain Campground, the road seems to be blocked by privately owned commercial campgrounds, but I continued walking. At the Middle Mountain campground area, a forest road leads north to the Pine River Trailhead.
The southeast lake side has three Forest Service Campgrounds in a row and views are mostly obscured by the Ponderosa Pine forest. As the road approaches the east side of the dam, the views open up.
There are two interpretive signs along the road that describe how Ospreys responded to the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire and how the fire affected the fishing in the area. Despite flames licking at their nesting trees the Ospreys persevered and fledged their nests.
The fishing was much affected by mud slides following the fires. Several thousand Kokanee Salmon were forced toward the surface to find oxygen and died of heat stress.
It took me 5:40 hours to walk all the way around Vallecito Lake, about 13 miles. I carried and drank 3 liters of water on a sunny early August day.