This South San Juan Wilderness Trail is popular with hikers, fishermen, and horseback riders because of its easy access, gentle grade, and the varied terrain of the Elk Creek Valley. The trail provides an ideal day hike for those camping at Elk Creek or Old La Manga campgrounds, or can be the starting point of a longer camping trip through the Conejos Plateau Area.
Ponderosa Pine branch
The trail begins by climbing high above Elk Creek where the valley narrows overlooking the boulder-strewn stream. The trail then follows the valley, with Elk Creek meandering slowly through the wide, flat First, Second, and Third Meadows. Steep cliffs of volcanic rock loom above the valley floor and are intermittently broken by side canyons. Aspen, ponderosa pine, fir, and spruce forests cover the valley slopes.
At the head of Elk Creek Canyon, the trail climbs the steep southern slope to Dipping Lakes, which sit on the ridge dividing the Elk Creek and Chama River drainages.
Suitable camping sites are dispersed along the valley. Water is available from Elk Creek along the entire route, but should be treated before consumption. Parking is available at the Trailhead.
The lower section of the Elk Creek Trail, below its intersection with Trail #729, is closed to motorized vehicle use. This vehicle closure provides a safer, more desirable route for hikers and horseback riders on the section of narrow trail directly above Elk Creek Campground.
Directions from Elk Creek Campground: Just after entering Elk Creek Campground, cross the bridge and take the trail leading south along the bank. A second and more popular access to the trail is the Posos Trail # 732.1A lead in.
Directions from Antonito: Take the Elk Creek Campground turnoff from Highway 17 approximately 23 miles west of Antonito, at the campground entrance, take the left fork of the road and proceed to the Old La Manga Campground. The Posos Trail access can be intercepted below the campground where the bridge crosses Elk Creek.
May through October .