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Durango, CO: South Fork Roaring Gulch

Sweeping views and a memorable elk-spotting traverse at 11,000 feet await on this 22.3-mile multi-day loop in the Rio Grande National Forest.

Rating

This 22.3-mile loop in the Rio Grande National Forest climbs 2,800 feet to elk-crowded alpine meadows below 13,172-foot Conejos Peak. Campsites scattered along the trail’s first half provide overnight options for a fast-paced one-night trip, or for a more leisurely several-day outing.
From the South Fork Trailhead, the trail turns uphill and branches west to begin a 20-mile loop alternating between open meadow, shaded forest and aspen groves, and skirting campsites before and after the South Fork Canyon Narrows where the trail rises several hundred feet above the river.

The climb intensifies and crosses several streams before reaching Twin Lakes and topping out at 11,800 feet near mile 11.5. The alpine heights offer sweeping southern views and the trail winds for several miles through open meadows before turning downhill for 5 switchbacking miles in the upper reaches of Roaring Gulch. The loop turns south above the Conejos River and retraces the last mile to the trailhead.
Snow conditions can affect trail conditions well into summer, check trail status pre-trip with the Conejos Peak Ranger District at (719) 274-8971.
-Mapped by Charlie Williams

To Trailhead

Take US 160 to CO 84 S. Drive 46 miles on CO 84, crossing into New Mexico, and turn left onto NM 17. Drive north for 26.9 miles entering Colorado on CO 17, and turn left onto Forest Road 250 toward Platoro. The South Fork Trailhead is 11.4 miles up the dirt road on the left-hand side.

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