San Juan National Forest, nestled in the southwestern region of Colorado, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. This picturesque landscape offers a plethora of activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. Encompassing over 1.8 million acres, the forest boasts a variety of terrains, from rugged mountains to tranquil meadows. For those seeking an unforgettable horseback riding experience, here are the top horse trails in San Juan National Forest.
1. Hermosa Creek Trail:
Spanning approximately 29 miles, the Hermosa Creek Trail is a popular choice amongst horseback riders. This scenic route showcases the stunning beauty of the Colorado landscape, with its dense pine forests, wildflowers, and cascading waterfalls. Riders will also encounter the Hermosa Creek, which meanders through the trail, providing opportunities for a refreshing dip or a quick drink for your four-legged companion. With various access points available, choose the section that best suits your riding ability and time constraints.
2. Rico-Silverton Trail:
For a thrilling adventure through rugged mountain terrain, the Rico-Silverton Trail is a must-ride in San Juan National Forest. Offering breathtaking views of the Animas River Valley, this trail stretches for approximately 23 miles. Prepare for challenging climbs, rocky passages, and steep drops along the route. Riders will be rewarded with panoramic vistas of majestic peaks, including the towering Sultan Mountain. Be sure to pack plenty of water, as there are limited water sources along the trail.
3. Chicken Creek Trail:
Nestled in the heart of San Juan National Forest, the Chicken Creek Trail is a great option for a day trip. Covering about 10 miles, this trail takes riders through beautiful meadows, aspen groves, and dense pine forests. The trailhead begins near Transfer Campground and follows Chicken Creek, offering ample opportunities for riders to take in the serene surroundings while traversing rocky or sandy terrain. With a moderate difficulty level, this trail is ideal for riders of all skill levels.
4. East Fork Trail:
If picturesque alpine views and crystal-clear lakes are your idea of a perfect horseback riding experience, then the East Fork Trail should be at the top of your list. This 13-mile trail provides riders with stunning vistas of Engineer Mountain, picturesque meadows dotted with wildflowers, and several high alpine lakes that mirror the surrounding peaks. While the trail is mostly moderate in difficulty, there are a few steep sections that challenge both horse and rider. Start your journey at the Pine River Trailhead for a truly unforgettable ride.
5. Vallecito Creek Trail:
For a longer horseback adventure, the Vallecito Creek Trail offers an exciting and diverse experience. Stretching approximately 26 miles, this trail showcases the pristine beauty of high alpine meadows, dense forests, and breathtaking waterfalls. Riders will follow Vallecito Creek, crossing wooden bridges and passing through lush aspen groves. The trail also leads to Emerald Lake, a perfect spot for a serene picnic or some fishing. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as mule deer, elk, and even black bears are often spotted along the trail.
Before embarking on any horseback riding adventure in San Juan National Forest, be sure to check for any trail closures or restrictions. Additionally, always practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out any trash and respecting the natural environment. It is also advisable to bring plenty of water, food, and appropriate gear for both yourself and your horse. By following these guidelines and exploring the top horse trails in San Juan National Forest, you'll create memories that will last a lifetime.