Piedra Area Trails
Unlike most Colorado wilderness areas, the wild Piedra River country consists entirely of forests below 11,000 feet in elevation. There are no high peaks or alpine lakes in Piedra, just miles of pristine rivers and streams surrounded by thousands of acres of primeval forest. Rather than sweeping panoramas, Piedra provides more intimate wilderness encounters, such as watching otters gambol along the banks of the river or marveling in the shafts of soft sunlight penetrating the murky depths of old-growth forests. At its lowest elevations, along the Piedra River near US 160, the area’s forests consist of ponderosa pine mixed with juniper and oakbrush. As you range higher, these give way to montane and subalpine species like Douglas fir, white fir, aspen, Engelmann spruce, and subalpine fir. The old-growth character of Piedra’s forests make the area especially important as a wild preserve. A particularly threatened forest ecosystem, old-growth ponderosa pine forests grow at lower elevations where people have constructed homes and businesses, resulting in a concerted suppression of forest fires in these areas. The normal fire regime in ponderosa pine forests is one of frequent, low-intensity ground fires that keep undergrowth down and create open parks. The suppression of natural fires allows thick undergrowth to take hold, with the crowns of white fir often growing up to the lower branches of ponderosas. This provides a ladder for flames to reach the ponderosa overstory, which can prove catastrophic for old-growth forests. Only in large roadless preserves, such as Piedra, can land managers allow natural fires to take their course and perpetuate the natural cycle of the ponderosa pine ecosystem. Another of Piedra’s remarkable features lies in its 15 miles of river canyon. The area incorporates the two box canyons of the Piedra River, deeply incised gorges cut into the ancient geologic strata. A half-dozen major tributaries drain out of the San Juan’s high peaks through Piedra country, adding to its significance as a watery forest wonderland. This trail guide includes descriptions of Second Box Canyon, Piedra Hot Springs, Skunk Creek, Devil Mountain/Second Box Canyon, Piedra River Trail, East Creek to Beaver Meadows, and Sheep Creek to Baldy Mountain.
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Directions to: Piedra Area Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Skill Level||Easy to Moderate|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||6,800 ft|
|Top Elevation||11,100 ft|
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