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Backpacking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Conejos Peak Ranger District

Quick Facts

South Fork Conejos River Trail

Beginning Elevation: 8,950 Feet (2789.9 Meters)
Difficulty: More Difficult
Elevation Gain: 2,450 Feet (763.7 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 11,400 Feet (3553.6 Meters) Ends near Blue Lake at junction with Trail # 719
Length, One-way: 10.0 Miles (16.67 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 724
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Spectacle Lake, Chama Peak

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Located in the South San Juan Wilderness, the South Fork of the Conejos Canyon is a spectacular example of glacial topography: a steep sided U-shaped valley with glacial deposits filling the valley bottom. As one heads west from the footbridge, one passes over glacial moraines rock that was scoured from the canyon above and dumped in huge piles when the glacier receded. These moraines have since been eroded by water flowing from the South Fork of the Conejos. At the confluence of the South Fork and Hansen Creek, the South Fork Canyon narrows considerably but retains its glacial character.

The forested slopes are broken often by outcrops of volcanic rock. The trail traverses the steep slopes high above the stream, occasionally descending to the canyon bottom. Waterfalls may be seen in some of the smaller tributary canyons, such as Canon Escondido.

Two forks of the South Fork Conejos Trail exist between the trailhead and the confluence with Hansen Creek. One fork travels along the south side of the valley, the other on the north side. The trails join where the South Fork Canyon narrows, just above Hansen Creek. The trails are both well marked, easy trails. The north trail has fewer water crossings, and may be more desirable for hikers.

The difficulty of the trail varies considerably, ranging from a gentle path following the stream to steep switchbacks climbing the valley slopes.

The South Fork Trail is a well traveled and easily followed trail providing access to the spectacular South Fork Conejos Canyon. From the South Fork Trail, one may reach several of the smaller canyons and the high lakes, such as Canon Verde, Canon Rincon, and Green, Blue and Glacier Lakes.

Water and camping sites are available along the entire route. Drinking water should be treated before consumption.

The South San Juan Wilderness is entered a short distance from the start of the trail. Beyond this point motorized equipment is prohibited.

Directions from Highway 17: From Highway 17, follow the Platoro Road #250 north approximately 10 miles, past Rocky Mountain Lodge and the Old Thomas Ranch. Turn left into parking area. From here a trail leads down to the South Fork Trailhead on the Conejos River at its confluence with the South Fork. Parking is available just off the Platoro Road. The trailhead is on the west side of the bridge crossing the Conejos River.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: May through October .

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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Along the route
ICON Geology Glacial topography
ICON Cold Water Fishing Stream fishing
ICON Hiking & Walking South San Juan Wilderness
ICON Horseback Riding Well traveled and easily followed. Horse trailer parking available in the South Fork dispersed camping area.

Related Activities
Canon Rincon Trail - Canon Rincon is a steep, ridged canyon that drains a spectacular glacial cirque below Conejos Peak. Twin Lakes sit in the cirque, surrounded by subalpine meadows, and can be reached by this trail.

Canon Verde Trail - Although the ruggedness of Canon Verde may discourage some from taking this path, the splendor of the canyon is well worth the effort.

Conejos River - The Conejos River provides more than 30 stream miles of high quality wild trout fishing. The Conejos River has more public fishing access along its length than any other major river in Colorado.

South Fork Dispersed Camping Area - The South Fork Camping Site is three miles north of the Rocky Mountain Lodge, west of Forest Road #250. The site lies between the road and the Conejos River at the South Fork Trailhead.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Conejos Peak Ranger Station, 15571 County Road T-5, P.O. Box 420 , La Jara, CO, 81140, Phone: 719-274-8971, TTY: 719-274-3139


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