Piedra River Trail

An out and back along the Piedra River, through the scenic San Juan National Forest.
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An out and back along the Piedra River, through the scenic San Juan National Forest.

This hike first crosses an open area and passes a fork; to the right is the Ice Cave Ridge Trail, a short hike up the ridge to fissures that are sheltered from the sun and contain snow in to late June. This hike also has good views of the Piedra Vallley.
Our route goes to the left, though, and ascends a bit, passing through aspen groves - take time to enjoy the scenic view in all directions. You'll then descend into the river canyon, walking along sheer cliffs, past overhangs, and under tall trees. After about a mile, the trail reaches the level of the river bank and follows it for a ways. There are often people fly fishing along the banks in summer.
From here, the trail veers away from the river somewhat, and eventually crosses a bridge over a stream flowing into the river. It then traverses large meadows, which are full of wildflowers in spring and summer. The trail eventually edges closer to the river, then leads to a metal span bridge. It is roughly 3.5 miles to this point, and if you're following this route, you'll turn around and retrace your steps back to Piedra River Road.
You'll hear lots of birds on this hike in summertime, and may see warblers, hummingbirds, and hawks.
It's possible to continue on along the river for an additional 8.5 miles, past several box canyons to end at another trailhead off of First Fork Road or County Road 622. Leave a vehicle here or arrange for a friend to pick you up, you're a long drive from the starting point. Trip planning information provided at the kiosk by the US Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District advises contacting the office (970-264-2268) to determine whether the First Fork Road on the west end is open before attempting the through hike.
Hikers should also be aware that, while the Piedra River Trail is well-used and easy to follow, other trails in the area may not be, and there is little trail signage. In the summer, be prepared for intense afternoon thunderstores, including wind and hail. Lower elevations are generally free from snow-pack by mid-June, but snow can linger in higher areas until July. During spring snow melt, expect high and fast water. In spring, this trail can be quite wet and muddy due to snow melt, but hikers will see frozen falls created by snow melting over cliffs during the day and freezing at night.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.0

Waypoints

Intersection

Location: 37.429265, -107.194708

Trail to the right leads up to the Ice Cave Ridge Trail; bear left for the Piedra River Trail.

Signs and information

Location: 37.427566, -107.194655

02-AUG-10 11:11:07AM

High point

Location: 37.423403, -107.194643

02-AUG-10 11:20:10AM

Raspberries

Location: 37.422644, -107.195115

In summer, wild raspberries can be found along the trail.

Canyon

Location: 37.421005, -107.195459

Here the trail traces the river through a narrow, canyon-like area.

River bank

Location: 37.415483, -107.196364

02-AUG-10 11:51:49AM

Large meadow

Location: 37.413469, -107.200553

02-AUG-10 12:00:19PM

Second meadow

Location: 37.413353, -107.204116

02-AUG-10 12:06:23PM

Bridge over creek

Location: 37.413331, -107.206427

02-AUG-10 12:09:27PM

Wildflower area

Location: 37.409265, -107.213153

02-AUG-10 12:26:24PM

Trail signs

Location: 37.405317, -107.218232

This is the intersection of 583 and 596, numbers used on forest service maps

Stream crossing

Location: 37.405319, -107.218399

After rains, or when snow is melting, a small stream crosses the trail.

More trail signs

Location: 37.402369, -107.223882

02-AUG-10 12:53:10PM

Bridge over Piedra River.

Location: 37.401273, -107.22564

This point is roughly 3.5 miles from the parking lot, and your turn-around point.

Parking for trail head

Location: 37.42999, -107.194312

Trail kiosk

Location: 37.427774, -107.194891

View of river

Location: 37.426718, -107.194548

Hiking along river

Location: 37.424741, -107.194355

Wild raspberries

Location: 37.42273, -107.195084

First bridge

Location: 37.413289, -107.206306

Scenic meadow.

Location: 37.406267, -107.216783

RIver and bridge

Location: 37.401221, -107.22557