Southwest Colorado Outdoors

Paddling and Biking


When it comes to paddling in southwest Colorado, the top picks can only be a matter of taste. Daredevil experts will find no greater challenge than the Upper Animas. This tempestuous serpent comes hurtling out of the peaks above Silverton and raises hell as it plunges over 2,000 feet in the next 30 miles.

If you want a long backcountry float, how can you pass up the Dolores ? Where the Rockies yield to the Colorado Plateau, the Dolores begins a 200-mile run through canyon country to its confluence with the Colorado River in Utah. Plan on ten days for the full run or scope out a two- or three-day segment. Expect some occasional grinding whitewater in places like Slickrock Canyon, and save plenty of time for exploring the pristine desert environment of the Dolores Canyon Wilderness Study Area.


Looking for a grandiose loop where you can load up your panniers and spend days cycling on backcountry roads? You have come to the right place. Southwestern Colorado four-wheel-drive roads offer a slew of alternatives for bikers. One classic is the Alpine Loop, a BLM Backcountry Byway. You can start the 65-mile route in Ouray, Silverton, or Lake City. Completing the circuit, you will climb over Cinnamon and Engineer Passes, both over 12,000 feet.

By now, you know I'm a fan of the Mount Sneffels environs. The Sneffels Range Bike Loop circumnavigates the area for 70 miles. The route mostly follows four-wheel-drive roads, but some double and singletrack sections are thrown in for fun.

For an off-road day trip, try the Hermosa Creek Trail. It's a 20-mile point to point from above the Purgatory Ski Area to the town of Hermosa, ten miles north of Durango. The route is net downhill, but even advanced mountain bikers will find plenty of singletrack challenge. The Hermosa Trail also makes for good hiking.

Published: 24 Jun 2003 | Last Updated: 30 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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