Spanning nearly 1.8 million acres of southwestern Colorado, San Juan National Forest offers unparalleled opportunities for recreation. The massive forest contains diverse landscapes, from the alpine peaks of the Rockies to beautiful desert mesas. Bird-watching and other wildlife viewing are year-round activities in this forest, and visitors can choose from hundreds of miles of trails through which they can venture into the wilderness for the best peek at local nature. For those who enjoy driving to the best mountain vistas, San Juan National Forest features many scenic byways suitable for any vehicle. Camping, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding are all available here. While nature lovers will undoubtedly enjoy San Juan National Forest, history buffs will also feel at home among the historical sites located within the forest, including the famous Chimney Rock National Monument.
This trail follows the longer Colorado Trail for a portion of its path through the San Juan National Forest. The Colorado Trail is a well-known backcountry trail that spans from Denver to Durango, CO. Its total length is nearly 500 miles, but Segment 24 located near Silverton, CO, is much shorter and gives hikers a chance to sample the sites that made the Colorado Trail famous.
Length: 21 miles
This pleasant out-and-back hike is one of the most popular in the San Juan National Forest. Hikers can expect to share the trail with other visitors but are rewarded with a straightforward hike with beautiful views of local flora and fauna. This trail is suitable for any skill level, and it's a great place to bring kids or others who prefer a hike with low intensity.
Length: 7.3 miles
This trail is a frequently used loop trail that takes hikers on a short jaunt through the area's beautiful forests. Hikers can follow the trail to its feature attraction — Potato Lake — before continuing the trail to return to the trailhead via a different route. Potato Lake is one of the best places to see wildlife, and many visitors choose this trail for its excellent wildlife watching opportunities and short length.
Length: 3.1 miles
This out-and-back trail is somewhat difficult and is less frequently used than some of the easier lake trails in San Juan National Forest. Visitors who complete the Crater Lake Trail are greeted with the picturesque vista of Crater Lake beneath towering mountain peaks.
Length: 11.1 miles
The out-and-back Engineer Mountain Trail provides a serious challenge for dedicated hikers. The trail gains altitude steadily through forests of aspen and pine trees and passes the east face of Engineer Mountain. This hike is not for the faint of heart, but those who conquer this trail are rewarded with amazing views of waterfalls, fields of wildflowers, and lakes.
Length: 12.7 miles
This trail features a challenging hike, but it's one that is manageable for most skill levels. The loop trail features amazing views of fields of wildflowers. The Coyote Hill Loop is a hidden gem in the forest and tends to be lightly trafficked. After rain or snowmelt, this trail does tend to become very muddy in some parts.
Length: 3.4 miles
The greatest appeal of San Juan National Forest is undoubtedly the beautiful natural features. This massive forest features some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the entire state of Colorado. Wildflower fields abound throughout the forest, representing just a portion of the diverse flora native to the area. Whether on a lengthy camping trip or short hike, visitors to the forest are all but guaranteed to see majestic examples of area wildlife. Other activities are abundant within San Juan National Forest.
Dozens of fishing holes are spread throughout the forest’s many lakes, and hunters with the appropriate permits will find ample game in the forest’s designated hunting areas.
There are numerous opportunities for stargazing free from the light pollution typical of cities and towns. San Juan National Forest features elevations in excess of 14,000 feet, giving visitors an opportunity for stargazing clarity not found at lower altitudes.
For those who enjoy a scavenger hunt, the forest has numerous ranger-approved geocaches hidden throughout the area for visitors to find.
Address: 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301
Fee: Entry fee $0
The massive size and scope of San Juan National Forest make this destination perfect for all skill levels. The forest features strenuous hikes and casual walks, all with amazing scenery and wildlife. Numerous scenic byways and RV-friendly campsites make San Juan National Forest an ideal RV trip destination. Whether winter or summer, San Juan National Forest has a recreation opportunity suitable for any traveler.