Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Animas Mountain Trail-Durango

The Animas Mountain Trail is one of the Durango, Colorado in town trails. The main loop is about 6.2 miles with a starting elevation of 6600 feet and a high point at about 8100 feet. This is a good trail system during the early summer when the higher mountain trails still have snow.

I used the West 4th Street trailhead that is west from Highway 550 at 32nd street, then north on narrow 4th Street to a rough gravel parking area. I didn’t see any street signs pointing out the trailhead. From the trailhead, the trail is a rough rocky road that climbs steeply at first.
The lower elevation south section of the trail system has several confusing options, but there are map signs at each junction. Even with the signs, it seemed like there were some unofficial trail options that can cause confusion. To the west of the Animas Mountain Trail System there is another trail system called the Dalla Mountain Park that connects. There is access to the Dalla system along Junction Creek Road.
The east side of the ascending loop has the best views. The early segment has views mostly south toward the town of Durango. In mid June the Animas River is running full.

The forest along the east side is dominated by Gambel Oaks with a mix of Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers, Ponderosa Pines, and a few Rocky Mountain Red Junipers. Toward the north end of the area there are some spruce trees. After about 1.5 hours and about 3 miles there is a small bench. From the bench there are views toward Missionary Ridge and north up the valley toward the nearby mountains. Below, the cut off meanders of the Animas River are visible.
The north high point of the Animas Mountain loop overlooks the Falls Creek Archaeological Area and the hidden valley. The Animas Overlook Interpretive Trail overlooks this same area from the west. There are also some views toward the LaPlata Mountains to the west. It took me about 2:00 hours to arrive at this overlook.
The return west side of the loop passes through mostly Ponderosa Pines without any more views. My total hike for about 6.2 miles took 3:15 hours on a 70 F degree mid June day. I saw about 5 other hikers and 3 mountain bikers while I was hiking. I carried and drank 2 liters of water.

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