Explore the most popular dog friendly trails in Rio Grande National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

hiking
5 days ago

The road to the trail is in good shape and easy to find. We went clockwise around the trail. The first two miles are pretty well maintained and easy to distinguish the trail. The climb up to the top, going in that direction, can be strenuous as the trail is very narrow in parts and is loose. I’d say it would be a challenge to descend that way, too. Once to the top the trail is all but non-existent for about a mile or so as the tall grass and downed trees have obliterated in parts. We ended up having to use the gps from this app to ensure we were maintaining the right course. After we got back on track it was a nice hike down the mountain. There is a point near the end of the loop that the trail itself clearly goes off the marked route from this map. We didn’t know where that went so we actually stuck to the course and had some trouble with downed trees and the disappearing trail again. The trail doesn’t fork in real life like it does on this map. I suspect the trail has been relocated and the map doesn’t keep up. All that being said, the scenery was beautiful and I’d do it again with my kids this time.

hiking
6 days ago

Great little hike through the trees to the lake. Occasional log and mud puddle obstacle. My 2yo sons hiked it on their own!

This review is for the hiking trail.

The directions in a previous report are accurate. Take Pool Table Road 600 from CO 149 about halfway between Creede and South Fork. At the end of the road is a parking lot, bathrooms and a small campground. From their to the bench with the best views of the Wheeler Geologic Area is 7.9 miles per a GPS watch. We decided to mountain bike the first two miles to save time and walking until we got to the wilderness area where no biking is allowed - at the stream crossing. There were a ton of down trees in this first two miles which made biking pretty tough. Had to carry it over probably 30 downed dead trees killed by the pine beetles. So because of all the dead trees in the area I don’t expect this to get any better for the next 60 years or so. After you get to the parking area for Wheeler - you’ll meet up with the Jeep road about a mile before getting there - it’s another 0.9 miles to the actual Wheeler site. You’ll follow a path that will come to a sigh where you can go straight or left to Wheeler. We went straight first which takes you to the bottom with some cool formations and perspectives but it dead ends in about a half mile. We backtracked to the left hand turn and that takes you to the bench with the awesome views of Wheeler. Very unique and worth the almost 16 mile round trip. Biking the first two miles in saves some time and effort but with the downed trees it’s probably a wash. Round trip was about 8 hours.

hiking
11 days ago

As the others said already, the Lake Como road is horrible. It is basically destroyed by the off-road vehicles, there are loose rocks everywhere, so it is difficult to walk. It is also very dusty hence unpleasant. The trees along the road are damaged by the vehicles too which is very sad. Why to destroy the nature??? There is a marker at 4.0 mile to the lake. The next marker is only at 1.5 miles to the lake (so don't get discouraged). Hiking in the morning is quite pleasant as the road is in a shade, however when descending in the afternoon you will have sun directly in your face (bring a ton of sunscreen). Lake Como itself offers epic views on Little Bear Peak, but the surroundings don't look particularly appealing. There are pieces of burnt wood scattered everywhere... Off-road vehicles continue to drive all the way to the waterfalls under Blanca Peak destroying the trail and the surrounding nature (I am not getting that....). Wildflowers are awesome in this time of the year :-)

Great hike. I never saw anyone the entire time. Lots of downed trees to deal with but otherwise not nearly as hard as this flatlander was expecting! Unbelievable views at the top!
I can say I was grateful for trekking polls. The loose rock and steep downhill would have been killer without them.

Scenic and nice little hike. Fair amount of blown over trees on the trail and trail is very very lightly used / difficult to see in more grassy areas but doable. Did lose the trail the last half mile (went counter clockwise on the loop) and ended up hiking an extra mile so just be heads up. Overall great views of a lake, alpine meadows and some distant peaks. Road up to trail head was dry and clear. A little clearance may be needed (I drive a Silverado with standard clearance) as there are some dips in the road that'd make me nervous in a car.

backpacking
21 days ago

this trail is great access to mountains like Adams and other 13er/14ers it doesn't have many poeple on it ever really (much less then willow) and is way easier but a little longer.

Magnificent! The water felt warm enough to swim in of it had been sunny.

hiking
23 days ago

Did this hike this morning. IMHO, the highlight of the hike was the side trail to Rough Creek Falls. Very pretty. Ruybalid Lake itself is in a beautiful location. But the view is marred by the prevalence of so many Engelmann Spruce trees devastated by the spruce bark beetle. I still think it's worthwhile to climb up to the lake. Just don't be disappointed when you discover that the reality doesn't match the pictures you might have see of the picturesque lake.
One trail-finding note. When you reach the meadow at the top of the climb, the trail towards Ruybalid Lake is not that evident. To find it. look out into the meadow, and head towards the two 6 foot posts about 10 yards apart from each other. The furthest post has the number 855 engraved at the top of the post, signifying the Forest Service designation of the Ruybalid Lake Trail. From these posts, the trail is a lot clearer.
Enjoy your hike.

Did this hike on 5/11/18. Hike is long but very doable in a day. Wherever the trail goes through the trees there are a significant amount of downed trees blocking the trail. The 4x4 trail was closed but wouldn’t be able to make it to the end bc of all the downed trees.

Great Easter hike. Great earlier season hike. Recommend microspikes from half way point on. Scenic rewards abound in last 20% of trail. Had lake all to ourselves and basked in its glory!

2 months ago

Hard.

hiking
3 months ago

I did a one-day ascent and descent from trailhead to Kit Carson's summit, going over Challenger in between. It was a tough but rewarding hike! The slopes of Challenger are a little slippery in places and somewhat grueling. Be careful. Trekking poles help. When I was there late summer 2017, Rocky Mountain Field Institute was building a better trail up Challenger, so it might be better now. If you continue to Kit Carson, make sure when descending to come down the same way you went up, as it is very easy to miss the avenue and go too far down. There are cairns marking a trail that apparently goes over to Columbia Point. The upper part of this trail is tempting and will lead you astray. I and many other parties have made this mistake.

I did this in one day. It was pretty hard on the feet, especially on the seemingly endless descent. But it was an incredible experience overall! Lots of beauty up there!

I knocked one star off for the somewhat nasty, slippery trail up Challenger. Be careful! Trekking poles help! Rocky Mountain Field Institute was up there building another trail in 2017, in what looked like a much more solid region, so it might be much better now.

Be careful when descending Kit Carson that you come down the same way you went up, as it is very easy to end up too far east and to miss the avenue and go too far down, into hazardous territory. Avoid the temptation of following the cairns that you might see up there, as they apparently belong to a trail that goes over to Columbia Point. Use GPS to make sure you hit the avenue's entrance. Mark it on the ascent.

hiking
3 months ago

I've lived in the SLV most of my life, and Blanca's summit had been calling for a while. I finally decided to get in shape to do it, starting by regularly hiking Limekiln Hill, west of Monte Vista, sometimes doing time trials, sometimes adding 50lbs of weight, and then proceeding to hiking ever larger hills and mountains: Pup, Dog, Horseshoe, Windy, Bennett, Handies, West Spanish Peak, Twin Peaks, etc. Then, on a nice day, I finally went for it, thinking I'd just see how far I could get before weather or fatigue made continuing seem unwise. I was hurrying, trying to beat the usual afternoon thunderstorms. I started at 8700 feet at 7am. To my surprise, I made it to the summit at 11:20am without any real difficulty! It was easier than I expected!

The area around Como and the upper basin below Blanca and Ellingwood are gorgeous! And the views from the summit are hard to beat.

I had been concerned about how I'd do with the exposure on the ridge, looking down Blanca's north face, but I found that I was fine with it. But most of it, aside from a spot or two near the summit, is entirely avoidable if it makes you uncomfortable.

The scrambling near the top is easy if you have even a little scrambling/climbing experience.

I found trekking poles very helpful, as always, especially for the descent. Bring some tape to treat hot spots before they turn into blisters. The long descent can be grueling. Make sure your shoes or boots fit properly and leave a little space in front of your toes.

I don't recommend this hike, especially in one day, unless you are very fit and understand the weather risks. Afternoon thunderstorms are the norm in summer and can be very dangerous up above treeline.

hiking
3 months ago

This is an enjoyable, gently inclined but sustained, fairly long, non-technical hike with a lot of possible elevation gain, good for getting into shape for the 14ers or just to do for its own sake. If the weather looks favorable, go all the way to Bennett's summit!

Great place to visit. Lots of things to see that range from beautiful scenic views to old buildings that are slowly becoming lost to time. Lots of wildlife in the area. Elk and mule deer are very common in the higher parts of the trail. Only draw back is that their are a lot of vacation homes a little ways down the road. If you are planning on driving threw the area with the old mining facilities, I would strongly recommend 4wd. It's a gravel road with a extremely steep incline.

hiking
4 months ago

Great little trail. Have seen moose here several times. Sadly the forest fire we had a few years ago, went around this area, so the view isn't as good as it once was, but it's still a beautiful trail.

hiking
4 months ago

Great trail. I was fortunate enough to see a mountain lion cross the road, close to the trail head. It contains beautiful shaded areas that open into lush fields. The constant sound of moving water is very relaxing. Definitely recommend!

hiking
5 months ago

I’ve hiked this many different times since my cabin is just a few miles away. Beautiful hike. Great gradual elevation changes and heavily shaded by dark timber. Can’t take any ATV larger than a quad. It is along Frisco Creek so the sounds of running water and great.

6 months ago

Great views, tough but doable climbs, my 7 year old son was able to do it.

hiking
6 months ago

Started at 7 and I expected it to be an easy hike. But the road you hike on is fist sized round rocks that make walking terrible. The wind on top was 15 mph and it was manageable but the 7 degrees plus wind chill made it extremely cold. I would totally do it again though. Ended up taking 11 hours and ended up two miles from my car in the dark. PS: if you want at about 13000 ft on the left their is an old mine shaft 300 yards from the trail and it’s only 20 feet deep but it’s a nice relief from the wind and snow drifts.

hiking
6 months ago

We went in November - gorgeous secluded trail with an amazing aspen grove and lovely creek.

hiking
7 months ago

Turns out this is not a bad early November hike. I ended up going around the back first, summiting, and the coming down to Tobacco Lake on the way out. After doing so, I feel like this might have been a more interesting route. Getting to the top of the first hill and into the meadows above the trees was a nice casual walk before making the real accent, kind of a warm up. An incredible hike either way you go. Outstanding views.

Beautiful! Only moderately hard as well, though we didn't go all the way up...

backpacking
8 months ago

The reviews already submitted are accurate. I just did this hike over the course of two days. I recommend getting out there early. The best camping spots in my opinion are near the trail shelter which is a short trail just off the Wheeler Geological Area trail. Additionally, beware one of the creek crossings is quite large. It was very cold when I went and wet feet would have been a nightmare. If you go upstream about 100 yards you can find two logs to cross. The trip going back to the trailhead is a lot tougher as others mentioned (many uphill sections) Lastly, tie your shoes tight this trail killed my toenails.

Favorite CO hike!

My wife, 5 year old, 8 year old and I went on this yesterday. The scenery is out of this world! The hike itself was not too difficult for myself and my wife but the kids had a difficult time coming back. The hike there is mostly downhill, but the hike back is almost all uphill. We did this in about 4 hours, and it was totally worth it. I highly recommend it!

My husband and I explored the wheeler area on September 16 2017, we drove the 16 mile 4x4 road in our 2007 Chevy silverado. We made it fine. The road was very long and lots of mud puddles and places where there lots of rocks. It look us 2 1/2 hours to reach the trailhead where we camped in a tent for the night. Beautiful area but there is alot of dead trees due to beetles. We hiked the 2 mile loop . The views are amazing! The formations will make you wonder if you are still on planet earth. It was well worth the time and discomfort of the long rough road to get there! We saw a couple vehicles with flat tires so make sure you have a spare and don't attempt to drive this road without 4 wheel drive. I would of given it 5 stars if it weren't so hard to get to.

backpacking
9 months ago

Excellent hike. Wish I would have pushed my jeep a little further, at least until the switchbacks started. Nonetheless we got to tack on an additional few miles of hiking. Getting to coma lake, summiting Blanca the next morning, breathtaking views of neighboring peaks, all made it worth it. Tough hike, good challenge.

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