Picketwire Canyon Trail

MODERATE 16 reviews

Picketwire Canyon Trail is a 16.7 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near La Junta, Colorado that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from January until January. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

16.7 miles
826 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly



horseback riding

mountain biking

trail running



wild flowers

Trail highlights include the Dolores Mission and Cemetery, which was built between 1871 and 1889 by Mexican pioneers settling the valley. Partial remains of the Mission and Cemetery are still visible. This site is about 3.7 miles from the trailhead. The dinosaur tracks, the largest sample in United States are further down the trail 1.6 miles. To access the dinosaur tracks, you will need to cross the river so be careful. In Summary', the hike from the trailhead to the Mission is 3.7 miles, the Mission to the Dinosaur Tracks is 1.6 miles. Total round trip for the Dinosaur Tracks is 10.6 miles.

1 hour ago

bring lots of water regardless of time of year. Little shade.

13 days ago

Great hike, wide paths, easy to follow. Dino tracks were amazing. We went 2/17/18, weather was great. Plan enough time, we got back about dark, and temps fall fast when the sun goes down.

20 days ago

spectacular trail with much to see and experience!

27 days ago

Beautiful trail, steeped in history. We went 2/15...no snow (thankfully). This trail has VERY little shade, maybe a large boulder or two along the way, please bring lots of water. We only made it to the dinosaur tracks... Thoes were super cool. Crossing the river is not a necessity as the tracks are on both sides, but we did. The Purgatory River was freezing cold but refreshing after walking in the sun for a few hours. It was not very deep maybe 8-10 inches. Heed the warnings about bringing water and being aware of your surroundings. We did not see any wild life other than birds but noticed there was a lot of droppings on the trail.

mountain biking
4 months ago

Nice trail.
Sunscreen is a must and you must have plently of water.
When the sun goes down, it can get very cold, so also recommend a jacket/coat.
If you mountain bike this trail highly recommend "puncture resistance" tires and/or tubes, due to the spurs on the trail.
If you have any questions about the trail I'm on Facebook Messenger.

6 months ago

Hiked this solo in early June 2016 - trailhead to the dino tracks and back. It is a physically easy hike - maybe a 400 foot climb out of the canyon to get back to trailhead at the end. I did it in 4 hours - including eating lunch on the riverbank.

The views are decent from some of the higher trail points, and the dino tracks, ruins and petroglyphs make for a variety of scenery. Decent flora (cactus and wildflowers) along the route, but saw more fauna up on the plateau by trailhead. Interestingly I only saw jackrabbits and no cottontails on top, but the converse was true down in the canyon.

Two words of warning: 1. There were BILLIONS of grasshoppers/locusts along parts of the trail. Wear long pants and walk fast and steady when you encounter them. 2. Heat: I dropped in at 9 AM and climbed out at 1 PM. Even in early June the canyon was oppressively hot by 1 PM. I drank all 3 liters of water I brought along, and was pretty baked when I got back to trailhead. There is little to no shade to be found there, except for the occasional cottonwood in the canyon and the odd cedar along the canyon walls.

It is a very enjoyable hike, and if you time it right you'll have it all to yourselves like I did!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

If you are doing this trail in the summer, camp at the trailhead and get an early start. This is a wide open space with little to no shade and it get hot once the noon day sun appears. I loved this trail for its trip through history. The dinosaur tracks are the icing on the cake, but you pass pre-Columbian petroglyphs, an old Spanish mission, and an early American homestead along the way. As other have said, bring plenty of water.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Did this in August 2016. Dinosaur footprints are unique. Hike is flat but 11 miles round trip from campground. Add another 5 if you don't have decent ground clearance vehicle because 2wd trailhead is 2.5 from campground trailhead. Decent descent into canyon is ONLY significant nonhorizontal hiking present. Take water or a filter. There is a source. The hike is a 2 or 3 but the uniqueness and relative difficulty makes it a 4 in my book.

mountain biking
Friday, June 10, 2016

awesome!!! great day, lots of history on the way

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Did this one with a good friend early in the year - agree about not trying this in the middle of the summer as it can be brutally hot. Dino tracks are goal and well worth the hike. Along the way is an old Spanish mission ruins and cemetery. Interesting birding and plant life if you slow down to check it out...good trail-head to park at and a very cool and interesting hike overall.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The trail is primarily a jeep trail that takes you to the trail highlights, old homesteads, spanish mission, dinasour tracks. The tracks were fantastic. So was the mission. highlly rate this trail. Be careful about summertime temperatures, It can be brutal and very dangerous.

Monday, April 04, 2011

It is inaccurate to call this trail being mainly for mountain biking. The trail may be used by hikers, bikers and horseback riders. The primary attraction of the trail is travel to the famous dinosaur trackway - the largest of its kind in North America. Along the trail there are several sites with ancient petroglyphs, ruins dating from the 19th century and beautiful views of natural rock formations. The round trip from the trailhead to the dinosaur tracks is about 10.5 miles. Beyond those is a pretty rock arch right by the trail, and a bit farther on an obvious trail leads up to some petroglyphs. There are lots of 'glyphs along the route if you look in the right places.

29 days ago

6 months ago

trail running
Thursday, October 20, 2016