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Picketwire Canyon Trail

MODERATE 53 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 accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 16.7 miles Elevation Gain: 826 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

camping

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

bike touring

ohv / off road driving

river

views

wild flowers

rocky

historic site

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. To access the dinosaur tracks, you will need to cross the river so be careful. Note: Horses are NOT allowed on the dinosaur tracks. Rourke Ranch, the end of the trail, is about 4.4 miles beyond the dinosaur tracks.

hiking
8 days ago

Very cool destination hike. The mission ruins and cemetery were incredible. Had to take boots off to cross the cold river to see the dinosaur tracks. As my daughter said, the tracks were crazy cool! We found two rocks with petrolythes. You have to keep an eye out for the designs on the rocks when walking. The area is not marked. The hike was moderately hard due to distance..My AllTrails said 12.7 miles without going to the ranch. The only gain was the short gain back up to the parking lot. The dirt road to the trailhead was passable today with a regular 2WD vehicle because it was dry. You really would need a high clearance 4WD if there is mud. Lastly make sure you have a minimum of 3L of water. We went November 9th and the temp was 78 degrees. We were in down jackets in the morning and short sleeves in the afternoon!

camping
bugs
no shade
1 month ago

Awesome place to take kids early Spring early fall for the dinosaur tracks flat easy going trail Take plenty of water

hiking
bugs
1 month ago

Holy bugs. I came for the day to catch the tarantula migration in the evening, that part was worth it, but this trail was disappointing. This trail had more ants and flying bugs of all types. I turned around about half way through.

hiking
no shade
1 month ago

Overall a great day hike... get started early because once it gets hot it is tough. Bring a ton of water with you... the reviews are correct.. I only had 2L but def needed more especially to do the climb at the end. Also you camp at the site but there are only 4 spaces so arrive early to make sure you get a spot. Stars are amazing!!! And it is beautiful!

mountain biking
no shade
2 months ago

One of our bikes blew a flat tire before making it to the Dino tracks. We walked to the tracks and then road one bike/walked on back to the trailhead. BRING PLENTY OF WATER IN THIS HEAT, thought we had brought enough 2 reg nalgenes and one xl. Was not enough. Ended up leaving the bikes at the base of the initial descent (to retrieve later once no longer dehydrated.) bring more water than ya think if your doing the trail in the sun

hiking
bugs
no shade
rocky
4 months ago

hiking
no shade
4 months ago

Beautiful hike but very hot and no shade. Unfortunately I lost my wedding band around 3.5-4 miles in.

hiking
5 months ago

you climb down, you have to climb up. Very nice views and peaceful. The canyon screams of the past.

hiking
no shade
6 months ago

Beautiful hiking through a large canyon. You follow a track along the west side of the canyon overlooking the river valley flats below. This is a long hike but easy going with very little elevation change. We hiked to the river and did not end up crossing as the water is running pretty swift right now. We spent 5.5 hours with stops at the various ruins, cemetery, and about an hour at the dino tracks. I drank almost my full 3L hydration pack on a fairly mild temperature day 5/4/19. Imagine it would live up to its name (Purgatory) in summer. Gravel road in is not bad at all. I got a flat as soon as I hit the pavement and my tire sidewall was slashed. After pondering it on a very slow drive back to Denver on a donut, I’m almost thinking the cattlegrade slashed my sidewall and caused the flat. Is this a thing?

horseback riding
6 months ago

**If you are heading to this trail and would like a small can of bear spray, stop at the picketwire corrals and grab the can I forgot next to a post! It should be on the left side of the wooden corral post that (I think) is the second post to the right of the gate.** Steep, rocky section right at the start of the trail- I'd recommend walking down this instead of riding. After that, though, it's an easy trail to the dinosaur tracks, with just a few rocky areas. Horses are not allowed onto the dinosaur trackway.

hiking
7 months ago

Good hike. It is mostly level to the tracks, which is as far as we went. The trail starts with a 250 foot drop into the canyon, which is not so much fun coming up at the end. That is the only part that I would rate as moderate, the rest is pretty easy. Bring lots of water. We got lucky and went on an overcast day but I can imagine its pretty hot when the sun is out.

bird watching
8 months ago

We LOVE Picketwire canyon. Great birds, awesome history, mellow hike with a couple challenging spots. Highly recommend.

hiking
9 months ago

Very. Long. Trail. but so worth it to see the dinosaur tracks! Tons of mud right now so I’d suggest waiting till it dries out. My hamstrings hurt for a week. Otherwise, great trail, full of history!

Thu Aug 16 2018

the toilet was nice to see after a long walk, protien bars and water

Thu Aug 16 2018

it was a nice walk bit wished I had a bike

Mon Apr 23 2018

Fun easy trail once you get to the bottom of the first dissent. We went with the Trinidad Outdoor Club on a ride last summer. Needless to say we had all abilities levels and most had to walk their bikes down to the valley bottom after that everyone was able to ride from there. We have three daughters ages 8,9, and 10 and they loved the trail. Not to mention that this is the only way our children could make it all the way out to the dinosaur tracks and back before night fall. Please make sure to bring more water than you think you need.

Sat Mar 17 2018

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

hiking
Sat Mar 03 2018

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.

hiking
Sun Feb 25 2018

spectacular trail with much to see and experience!

hiking
Sat Feb 17 2018

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
Sat Oct 28 2017

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.

hiking
Mon Aug 28 2017

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!

Sat Jun 10 2017

it was great. Comanche grasslands, full moon, dinosaur tracks....owls hooting, skunks tripping down the trail..it's a long trail. prepare well.

hiking
Sat Jan 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.

hiking
Sun Oct 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
Fri Jun 10 2016

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

hiking
Thu Apr 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.

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