Piedra River trail

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Piedra river trail
Piedra river trail
Piedra river trail
Piedra river trail
Piedra river trail
Piedra river trail
Butterflies along the Piedra river trail
map: Piedra river trail
Elevation plot: Piedra river trail

Location

How to Get There
This hike is located near Pagosa Springs, Colorado

UPPER TRAILHEAD: From HWY-160 through Pagosa Springs, take the Piedra Road (FR631) out of town headed North. This road starts out as a paved road and turns into a well graded dirt road. After about 16 miles of driving along this road, you'll cross the Piedra River. A few hundred yards later, you'll see a parking area on your left with the signed trailhead for the Piedra River. Park here.

LOWER TRAILHEAD: Take HWY-160 West from Pagosa Springs. Turn right (North) on the well signed First Fork Road (FR622) just after you cross the Piedra River. Take this well graded dirt road 8.5 miles to the signed trailhead on the right side of the road just after you cross the Piedra River.
city
Pagosa Springs
state
CO
country
USA
Region
Colorado

Hike details

Distance
11.10 [Miles] Total
Hike Distance- Details
11.1 miles total hiking.
Time
5.75 [Hours]
Time-details
It took us about 5 hours and 45 minutes with a 20 minute stop for lunch.
Elevation Change
1,000 Total gain/loss [Feet]
Elevation Loss
600 Total Elevation Loss[Feet]
Elevation Gain
400 Total Elevation Gain [Feet]
Elevation Details
There's some up and down, but the total elevation change is a 600 ft drop from the upper trailhead to the lower trailhead.
Hike Trail Type
One way - Shuttle
Special Features
Water

Season

Best Season
  • July
  • August
Worst Season
  • January
  • February
  • December
Season Details
Summer.
Date Hike completed
June 29, 2013

Solitudue

Solitude
High
Solitude Details
Very good. We only saw five hikers during the entire hike. Most hikers will be doing day hikes from either the upper or lower trailheads, so there is an excellent chance for extended solitude on this hike.

Difficulty

Difficulty Rating
Moderately Strenuous
difficulty detail
This trail stays by the river a good amount of time, which makes it a very charming hike. There is some up and down elevation change, so due to the distance it's a moderately strenuous hike.

Permits

Be Aware of
shuttle needed.

Hike along the Piedra River trail in Colorado.

The San Juan National forest has a plethora of wonderful trails. We were looking for a long, scenic day hike in this area, and the Piedra River trail definitely fit our target. The only drawback to this hike is the long shuttle needed. However, it is worth it to be able to hike the full length of the river.

From the upper trailhead, you'll briefly head through an Aspen forest before the easy to follow trail parallels the river. The canyon walls narrow up nicely here and the combination of the canyon and water is very scenic. Watch out for the abundant poison ivy along the trail in this area (and popping up occasionally throughout the hike).

Although the lower trailhead is 600 ft lower, there is still some decent climbing on this hike. Sometimes the trail follows the river closely and other times the trail ends up high on the forested canyon walls. All the water crossings either have bridges or are easily negotiated without getting wet. After about 2.3 miles of hiking, the canyon opens up and you'll reach a signed trail junction with the Piedra Stock trail (JCT 1L on the map). Stay left here to stay on the Piedra River trail. After 2.8 miles of total hiking, the Piedra stock trail branches off to the left at a signed trail junction (JCT 2R on the map) and crosses the river on a bridge. Stay right here to stay on the Piedra river trail. The trail alternates between open meadows and pine forest in this section.

After about 6.3 miles of total hiking, you'll start a healthy and sustained climb away from the river. This section of the trail was burned by the Little Sand fire in 2012. Even though the fire was so recent, you can see evidence of the forest starting to recover. The climbing peaks out at the high point of the trail (7800 ft) before descending once again.

Eventually after just over 11 miles and one final, gradual descent, you'll reach the lower trailhead and your shuttle vehicle.

Map

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