In-the-know Durango locals get away from it all in the Falls Creek area. The narrow valley features a series of trails through hillsides studded with scrub oak and gray swirls of slickrock, and it’s just 15 minutes from downtown. Explore the clear but unnamed trails in any order.
One option heads north for 1 mile across a tall-grass meadow and up a pine-covered hill to a small lake abutting private property. Turn back, then trace a parallel 1-mile trail along the base of the cliffs. Several side trails branch off this path and climb the bluffs; reach them by turning east at the first well-defined spur. Heading right brings you up a steep hill through oak and pinon pine to the clifftop; turning left leads to a more gradual climb. Once on top, search for the numerous Anasazi historical sites and gaze across the valley to the town and mountains beyond.
Info: (970) 247-4874; www.fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan
Hike provided by Esther Greenfield, BACKPACKER correspondent