Riding the La Plata Canyon Trail

My companion for the day - Salsa El Mariachi

I spent a good part of a day riding the La Plata Canyon trail just outside Durango, CO. My goal was to reach the Colorado Trail and have a gnarly ride into town, but not everything went according to the plan.

Anatomy of The Trail

The way I see it, The La Plata Canyon Trail is a multi-purpose dirt road that connects Highway 160 to one of the country’s most famous thru-hike trails: the Colorado Trail. Technically speaking, this trail and CO County Road 124 are one and the same. The trail starts at some 8700 feet (2675m) above sea level and is a steady ramp up into high-country. Being a multi-purpose trail used by ATVs, it starts out on a nice grade, but gets steeper as you move farther into the mountains. Gravel pebbles pave the way to the top and I found the condition to be excellent. Especially since I was riding it right after the big spring melt. As a bonus, you’ll be riding in San Juan National Forest’s territory.

La Plata Canyon Ride Report

The initial plan was simple: ride up La Plata Canyon and descend through the Colorado Trail into the city of Durango. The execution wasn’t as simple. Mrs. Trouble dropped me off where the dirt path starts, close to the village of Mayday. From there, I pedaled (mostly upwards) into the San Juan Forest.

It felt like my lungs had settled into the high-altitude, after all, I had arrived in Colorado 4 days prior to this adventure. Things started well, and the thin air didn’t seem much of a problem. The terrain was evenly graded and the scenery was inspiring. As you can imagine, there are plenty of things to see. I made sure to stop to look around and take some pictures.

I was pleased to see that the trail was dotted with campsites. I didn’t see very many people camping up there, but that might have been because it was too early in the season. Even if you are not spending the night, the camping spots make perfect rest stops or just a nice spot to stop and have lunch.

I was getting pretty high in the canyon when I noticed I was stopping more often to take a break and catch my breath. That was when I glanced at my barometric watch and noticed I had just crossed the 10.000 feet (3000 m) mark. I kept on pushing in hopes to reach the Colorado Trail. Snow became apparent and the trail was getting wet and mushy. First snow drift was very passable, I just rode ride over it. The second snow drift was a bit more challenging and I decided to push my bike over it. Finally, the trail became unpassable, fully covered in snow. This is where the plan to ride down the Colorado Trail foiled. I turned around and hit warp speed back to the highway.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Susan Koonce says:

    Andre, I loved reading about your ride up into La Plata Canyon! It is a place I love. Have 4-wheeled it all the way to the top and hiked and snowshoed many trails along the way. Great pictures! One time when you are visiting, you will make it all the way to the CO Trail…

  2. Sarah K says:

    Yes! A fun read and nice pictures. Amazing to see the amount of snow still up there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *