Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Haflin Creek Trail-Durango

The Haflin Creek Trail is a 5 mile route that climbs from the Animas River Valley floor up to Missionary Ridge, north of Durango in southwest Colorado. The trailhead is about 7 miles north of Durango along Highway 550, then east 1 mile on Trimble Lane and south 1.2 miles on County Road 250 to a gravel turn toward a Forest Service Work Center. I didn't notice a sign for the trail along the road. The Dalton Ranch Golf Course is in this area.

The first segment of trail climbs steeply with back and forth switchbacks above the trailhead area. There are increasingly higher views above the Animas River and southwest views toward Animas Mountain and the Hidden Valley area. The trailhead elevation is 6600 feet and there is 1000 feet of climbing before the trail starts to level off.

There are also good views to the north. The Haflin Creek Trail features a rich variety of trees. Gambel Oaks, Pinon Pines, Utah and Rocky Mountain Junipers, and Ponderosa Pines are all in view along the climbing segment. Further on are Douglas Firs and Aspens.

As the trail turns east along the north shoulder of Haflin Creek, the effects of the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire become apparent. The Missionary Ridge Fire burned for 39 days beginning in June 2002. The burned area was measured at 73,000 acres and extended from here east to Vallecito Reservoir.

Ten years later, there are Gambel Oaks returning, but the tall pines and firs are scorched reminders. Baldy Mountain at about 9700 feet is the high point ahead.

The route continues to climb, but more gradually. There are two dry creek crossings and Haflin Creek has only a trickle of water. In early September, some fall color is starting to appear.

Further up the trail, young Aspens are growing. I turned around after 2:15 hours and about 4 miles at about 8500 feet elevation. There is a trail junction with the Missionary Ridge Trail about 1 mile further and 1100 feet higher.

My return hike took 1:45 hours for a total hike of 4:00 hours for about 8 miles. It was an 82 F degree early September day and I carried 3 liters of water. I saw 14 other hikers and 6 dogs during my hike.