A hike along the Massey Gulch Trail provides a person with an ecology lesson in natural succession. The trail passes through an area of old timber harvesting and an area where the aspen forest was killed by a tent caterpillar infestation.
The area of old timber harvesting is located on the southern slope of the Conejos River Canyon. Following the timber harvest, aspen invaded and now dominate the area. Douglas fir and white fir saplings are growing beneath the aspen canopy. As the Douglas fir and white fir mature, the forest will become too dense and shaded for aspen reproduction. The aspen will gradually disappear. The present open character of the forest allows sufficient sunlight to reach the forest floor for a dense understory of shrubs and herbs to grow. Wild raspberry is a dominant shrub here and in the late summer hikers will find the berries a tasty treat. Due to the remote access, the trail is not well used and may be obscured or overgrown in places by vegetation.
Hikers should carry water on this trip because once the trail leaves the Conejos River it does not pass any permanent stream, springs, or lakes.
Directions from Antonito, Colorado: Follow Highway 17 to the River Springs Work Center, 15 miles west of Antonito, Trailhead parking is available at the station. At the end of the station access road, approximately 1/4 mile upriver from the station, hikers must ford the Conejos River. (It is not recommended that the river be crossed during periods of spring run off.) From the south bank of the river, the trail begins to ascend the Conejos River Canyon.
April through September .