Easy Day Hikes

Camping at Vallecito Lake

The Essence: Just 18 miles Northeast of Durango in the San Juan National Forest and adjacent to the Weminuche Wilderness is the beautifully tucked away, Vallecito Lake. Vallecito Lake offers ample recreational activities year-round from camping, hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, boating, fishing, hunting, dog-sledding, and much more! The name Vallecito means "Little Valley" and is considered one of the largest and most beautiful bodies of water at an elevation of 8,000 ft above sea level in Colorado. 

With all that in mind, there are many camping opportunities at Lake Vallecito. To begin, there are 3 full-service RV and Cabin Resorts for the 'glampers' (glamor campers) of the world and 7 seasonally-maintained campgrounds.

Getting There: From main avenue head north to 15th street and make a right, this will lead into Florida Road and go straight through the round-a-bout. Go straight on Florida Road for 13 miles then make a right onto County Road 240. From here, travel about 3 miles till you make a left onto County Road 501 stay on this road for 4.5 miles then turn right onto County Road 501A. At this point in time, you should be making a right by a small convenient store (don't expect much if you forgot something). Along this road you will come up behind the lake and see there are many campsites along the path!

Comments: In total it should take about 45 minutes to an hour to get to a campsite. It is a good idea to bring an all wheel drive vehicle for some of the rougher terrain (depending on the time of year) but I have effortlessly romped around in my Volkswagon Jetta several times. Other things to be mindful of when driving are the free range cattle roaming this area. 

Lower Cascade Falls

The Essence: Tucked deep in the canyons of the San Juan National Forest is a beautifully hidden 15 foot waterfall at the end of the Cascade Creek Trail. This hike down can be done year-round depending on hiking expertise. In the summertime, an array of beautiful native wildflowers surrounds you as you descend down into the roaring canyon. Or in the winter, snowshoe down into the blissful, (sometimes) untracked path along the slow trickling stream. Also in the winter, you're likely to encounter ice climbers and caves but, be mindful the path can not only be slick but hidden at times!


Getting There: From Durango drive north 28 miles on U.S. 550 until you pass Purgatory Resort and Cascade Village. After passing Cascade Village, you will make an immediate hairpin turn over Cascade Creek at which, you will make a right turn into a dirt parking lot. Park here and begin to walk east along the dirt road, past the emergency cabin, and red-colored cattle guard.


The Route: On your right after the cattle guard and before the large road access informational sign, a trail head should begin traversing you down into the canyon. After a half a mile hike down, make your first left by some trees and begin hiking along the side of the canyon path. If you look up and closely you will find metal spikes (pitons) nailed into the rock which help climbers traverse safely across the surface. Follow the sound of the roaring waters along the path for a little over a mile until you reach the destination. 


Comments: This is considered an easy hike in the summertime but can be considered moderately difficult in the winter, due to the slick and uncertain trail conditions. In the winter, the parking lot is icy and not plowed so it is recommended to have a car with all wheel drive.