You don’t have to bid adieu to your cherished hikes or those serene strolls through the woods just because there’s a blanket of snow outside. In fact, that snowy cover presents a chance to witness the serene allure of a landscape veiled in pristine white. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned winter trekker, the Vallecito Creek Trail and the Weminuche Wilderness area beckon you to step out and relish hiking in the snow, treading the same paths you traverse in the summertime. All it takes is strapping on a pair of snowshoes. Strap those on over your sturdy winter boots, and you’re all set to embark on your snowy adventure.
The Vallecito Creek Trail commences at the Vallecito Creek campground, just a stone’s throw past the North end of Vallecito Lake, near the charming towns of Bayfield and Durango. The creek gracefully borders one side of the campground, painting a picture of pure natural beauty.
For those venturing into snowshoeing for the first time, Vallecito Creek Trail proves to be an ideal starting point. The campground area offers a relatively flat terrain, perfect for beginners to acclimate themselves to these snow-traversing contraptions.
A section of the trail encircles the campground, presenting gentle slopes that are quite enjoyable for beginners. You can opt for the loop around the campground’s perimeter (beginning at the Southwest edge of the parking lot) or follow a trail through the campground leading over a footbridge spanning the creek. This bridge marks the entrance to the Weminuche Wilderness area, where the trail begins its ascent to two overlooks, situated one to two miles from the campground.
Once you’ve explored the campground vicinity, make your way to the bridge, cross over the creek, and ascend towards the first overlook. Perhaps you’ll encounter a stray tree limb or two along the trail, easily maneuverable for most, though smaller children might need a helping hand. From the first overlook, you can continue upwards to the second or trace your steps back to the campground.
For the seasoned snowshoers eager for more challenging trails and winter camping, journey straight through the campground, cross the bridge, and continue past the two overlooks for several miles. The Weminuche Wilderness, spanning over 499,771 acres of high-elevation, rugged backcountry, awaits your exploration, as per the U.S. Forest Service.
After your snowy escapade, Vallecito offers various spots to grab snacks or unwind with a hearty meal. Vallecito Country Market, the Rusty Shovel Saloon, the Lakehouse, and the Rocky Mountain General Store and Meats are all within a short distance from the trailhead on County Road 501. They offer everything from quick bites to lavish dinners. Take a breather, savor the warmth, and replenish your energy after a delightful time in the snow.
Renting snowshoeing gear for the day won’t break the bank. You can find packages including snowshoes and poles, and if necessary, boot rentals are also available.
Wherever you can hike, you can snowshoe, but always be mindful of avalanche warnings in the area you’re exploring. Dress appropriately for the snow and keep your surroundings in mind. It’s easy to lose yourself in the enchantment of it all! Most importantly, relish every moment and revel in the joy of the experience!
As you tread the Vallecito Creek Trail in the winter wonderland, each step becomes a dance with nature, a symphony of crunching snow underfoot. The serene landscape, adorned in pristine white, whispers tales of tranquility, inviting you to immerse yourself in its quiet beauty.
For the novices venturing into the world of snowshoeing, this trail is a gentle embrace, a welcoming canvas to paint your first snowy adventure. Picture yourself, traversing the campground area, feeling the thrill of mastering those oversized shoes, the exhilaration of exploring this winter paradise.
And oh, the sights that unfold! The trail, like a secret path, winds its way around the campground, offering gentle slopes that feel like nature’s caress. You might opt for the loop around the campground, or perhaps, follow the trail through the magical footbridge, stepping into the enchanting realm of the Weminuche Wilderness. It’s here that the true magic unfurls, as the trail leads you to those breathtaking overlooks, granting you vistas that steal your breath away.
Ascending to these overlooks isn’t just a climb; it’s a journey toward awe-inspiring panoramas. Amidst the snowy path, maybe you encounter nature’s whimsy—branches here and there, reminding you of the wild, of the untamed beauty that surrounds you. And as you reach that first overlook, the world below unfurls like a snowy tapestry, urging you to continue higher or to linger and savor the moment.
For the seasoned snowshoers, those who revel in the challenges winter presents, this trail isn’t merely a stroll; it’s a saga waiting to unfold. Beyond the campground, past the overlooks, the Weminuche Wilderness spreads its arms wide, inviting you to explore its vast, untamed embrace. Acres upon acres of rugged backcountry stand as your playground, daring you to venture further, to seek what lies beyond the horizon.
Yet, amidst this snowy escapade, Vallecito remains a comforting haven. Those cozy spots nearby—Vallecito Country Market, the Rusty Shovel Saloon, the Lakehouse, and the Rocky Mountain General Store and Meats—beckon, offering not just sustenance but a chance to unwind, to bask in the warmth, to share stories of your snowy exploits.
And in these moments of respite, you realize that it’s not just about the journey but about the emotions it stirs—the thrill of conquering new trails, the solace found in nature’s embrace, the joy of shared experiences. It’s about seizing the beauty of this winter wonderland, treasuring it as a memory etched in the heart.
So, as you wrap up your adventure, remember—it’s more than just strapping on snowshoes and braving the cold. It’s about embracing the quiet magnificence of a snowy landscape, letting it touch your soul, and leaving you yearning for more of nature’s enchantment.
Snowshoe Rentals in Durango
- Ski Barn – 970-247-1923
- 2nd Avenue Sports – 970-247-4511
From Bayfield, Colorado: 22 miles – 36 minutes
- From the intersection, at Hwy 160 and Co Rd 501 in Bayfield, CO go North on Co Rd 501 (at the roundabout take the Co Rd 501 exit) – 18.2 mi
- Turn left onto Co Rd 500 2.6 mi
- Go to the end of Co Rd 500 and turn left into the parking area, the campground will be on your right.
From Durango, Colorado: 30 miles – 58 minutes
- From Main Avenue take East 15th Street
- At the roundabout take the Florida Rd/Co Rd 240 exit – continue 11 miles
- Turn right onto Co Rd 245 (Corner known as Helen’s Store) – 4.9 miles
- Turn left onto Co Rd 501 – 10 miles
- Turn left onto Co Rd 500 – 2.6 miles
- Go to the end of Co Rd 500 and turn left into the parking area
Links to U.S. Forest Service Information:
Columbine Ranger District Office – 970-884-2512
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