As one of Durango’s many in-town trails, Animas Mountain is easily accessible for those seeking an after work or lunch break jaunt, or simply nearby hike. Located just north of downtown, the trail offers spectacular views of the city of Durango and the Animas River valley. The trail begins with rather steep, rocky switchbacks but flattens out a bit after roughly the first half-mile, deeming it an easy-to-moderate hike. Though you only gain 1,500 feet in elevation, the highest point of the trail is at 8,100 feet providing hikers with breathtaking views of the La Mountains to the north once you reach the plateau.
What Makes It Great
With forks in a few different spots, this trail offers hikers several different routes along the same loop, allowing for a slightly different hike each time. Not only does the loop offer variety in routes, but in views as well. The first mile of the hike is very exposed and traverses along the edge of the mountain affording hikers with continuous views of downtown Durango to the south. This section gets very hot under the high desert sun so make sure you have a light layer and plenty of sunscreen. As you ascend beyond that the trail cuts into the mountain and plateaus out to a much milder grade and a break from the sun.
This section takes you through dense Ponderosa Pines and Gambel Oak, transitioning from a desert feel to a woodsy feel. It is quite a temperature difference in the trees so depending on the time of year, be sure to pack a warm layer as well. Wrapping around to the north, the trail once again traverses the edge of the mountain, this time providing incredibly scenic views of the Animas River winding through farmland in the valley, and the snowcapped La Plata Mountains beyond that.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone looking for great views and a little leg burn without traveling too far is going to love this trail. Whether you do the entire loop or a quick out-and-back up the steep switchbacks, your legs are sure to get a nice workout. Because of its in-town location it is a favorite among trail runners, mountain bikers and dog walkers, so it is a well-traveled single-track trail. While it may not offer a secluded feeling, it is a great trail in the winter, as the snow remains packed down from the foot traffic. When it is not covered in snow, however, it’s very rocky so shoes with ankle support are recommended.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Durango, drive north on Highway 550 (Main Avenue) to the traffic light at 32nd Street. Turn left at the light and drive to the end of 32nd where it crosses West 4th Avenue. It is a little confusing here because there is a one-way sign pointing left and a trailhead sign pointing right. Despite the one-way sign turn right up the gravel road and you will arrive at the parking lot. Though the parking area isn’t huge, you will have no problem getting a spot. Dogs are permitted and most are off leash so be prepared if you bring your own furry friend.