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Backpacking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Conejos Peak Ranger District

Quick Facts

Chama River Trail

Beginning Elevation: 8,800 Feet (2743.1 Meters)
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 550 Feet (171.4 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 9,350 Feet (2914.6 Meters)
Length, One-way: 2.5 Miles (4.17 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 738
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Chama Peak

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Copyright: Unknown
Chama Basin is a spectacular valley surrounded by steep cliffs of volcanic rock and dominated by expansive aspen and virgin spruce-fir forests. The wildlands of Chama Basin are a haven for a great diversity of wildlife and provide calving grounds for a large herd of elk that summers in the basin and on the alpine plateau above.

The Chama River Trail follows the river to the confluence of the West and East Forks. Along the way, it climbs from the riverbed, densely vegetated with cottonwood and alder, to the aspen forests covering the slopes above. Several small streams, which cascade from the steep cliffs above, are crossed. Dry meadows are interspersed within the aspen forest providing beautiful views into the upper basin.

The confluence of the East and West Forks is surrounded by rolling meadows. Waterfalls cascade from the cliffs just above, the most spectacular of which feeds the East Fork. Continuing up the East Fork, the old Orell cabin originally used as a sheep camp, sits on the edge of the bordering forest. Several beaver ponds, supporting trout, will be found a short way upstream, a beautiful spot for an afternoon interlude of fishing.

Although the trail ends near the beaver ponds, more adventurous hikers may continue cross country and join Trail #740 as it follows the West Fork.

Access may be difficult during spring run-off because the Chama River must be forded, once just above the camping area, and again where the trail crosses the river one-half mile above the trailhead. Parking is available at the camping area before the road crosses the Chama River.

Directions from Chama, New Mexico: Approximately 7.0 miles north on Highway 14, take the Chama River Road # 131, to the north. This road passes through private property for 6.0 miles before reaching the Rio Grande National Forest boundary. At the Forest Boundary, take the left fork of the road down to the Chama River Camping Area and continue following the road upstream approximately 2.0 miles. The Chama River Trail begins at the road closure.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: April through September .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Typical spring conditions indicate you should expect snow above 10,000 feet. Updated: 2000-05-09 10:40:00.0

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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Cold Water Fishing Beaver ponds located up the East Fork
ICON Hiking & Walking Chama River Trail
ICON Horseback Riding Gentle terrain
ICON Viewing Scenery Waterfalls
ICON Viewing Wildlife An elk herd and other animal diversity

Related Activities
Archuleta Trail - The Archuleta Trail gives access to the western portion of Chama Basin, one of the most scenic and wild places on the Conejos Peak Ranger District. The trail follows Archuleta Creek, climbing steadily but gradually from the Chama River valley.

Juniper Group Site - This site has a 20 car parking area and drinking water is provided through a hydrant. There is also open space available for informal games. Firewood is not provided.

West Chama Trail - The West Chama Trail provides access to upper Chama Basin, an area of virgin spruce-fir forests surrounding steep and colorful volcanic cliffs. Waterfalls tumbling over the cliffs can be seen from almost any vantage point.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Conejos Peak Ranger Station, 15571 County Road T-5, P.O. Box 420 , La Jara, CO, 81140, Phone: 719-274-8971, TTY: 719-274-3139


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