Junction Creek is the southern terminus for The Colorado Trail. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can walk all the way to Denver from here (some 486-miles away), but if you only have an afternoon to spare, a jaunt up to Gudy’s Rest is a great Durango day-hike and a local favorite. This gratifying eight-mile out and back is perfect for those looking to spend more time outdoors and less time in the car driving to the trailhead. It’s just a short trip from downtown Durango.
What Makes It Great
This first section of The Colorado Trail requires minimal work with big payoffs. It’s easily accessed from town and affords great views from several high points. The first 2.5 miles follows Junction Creek, a crisp and clear mountain stream with plenty of places to stop and take pictures. This section of trail is great for hikers who haven’t quite adjusted to the altitude. It climbs gradually and sidles along the hillside above the creek, where you’ll find good views of cliff faces and steep wooded hills, before descending to a wooden footbridge across the creek.
Many hikers will turn around here, making this an even 5-mile trip. But for spectacular views and the perfect lunch spot, keep on trekking up to Gudy’s Rest.
From the footbridge, the trail switchbacks up a steep 1.5 miles of trail. If you’re huffing and puffing, don’t worry, the views from the top are well worth the effort. Gudy’s Rest is named for Gudy Gaskill, known as “the Mother of the Colorado Trail.” It’s said this high spot was one of her favorite places to sit and contemplate. Pack a lunch, and enjoy views of Durango below and the San Juan Mountains beyond.
From Gudy’s, the Colorado Trail continues on its way to Denver. It climbs spectacular ridgelines, crosses remote wilderness areas, passes high alpine lakes, and even reaches a height of 13,334 ft. Most thru-hikers are southbound from Denver, so if you encounter a victorious hiker finishing her journey, give her a high-five and a lift to the closest brewery. The Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale from Carver Brewing Company is a must, even if you didn’t walk all the way from Denver!
Who is Going to Love It
Junction Creek to Gudy’s Rest can be enjoyed by just about everyone. For the most part, this well-built trail rises and falls at a fairly gentle grade, making it achievable for most walkers. It is also a popular trail run and mountain bike circuit. At any given time, you’re likely to see professional and amateur mountain bikers and runners charging up (or down) the trail.
But don’t forget to bring water! Durango has an arid, desert-like climate and it’s easy to get dehydrated fast, even on cold and cloudy days. This section of trail climbs from 6,983 ft. to 7,970 ft. above sea level. The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to drink lots of water and rest if you’re feeling lightheaded or sick.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Durango, drive north on Main Ave. (US-550) and turn left on 25th St. This turns into Junction Creek Road/County Road 204. In 2.9 miles, the road forks. Stay left. In half a mile, you’ll see the Junction Creek Trailhead and carpark on your left.
Though the Colorado Trail has no posted hours, there is no camping allowed until 16.9 miles past the Junction Creek Trailhead.
As dogs are allowed, this section of the CT is a very popular spot for locals to walk their dogs. Most are unleashed, so be prepared if you have your own four-legged buddy with you.