This trailhead provides access for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians into Withers Canyon. The Purgatoire River created this canyon on its way to meet the waters of the Arkansas River. One trail leads south through the canyon 8.7 miles and passes three sites of interest. Camping is not permitted in the canyon: this site is for day-use only.
Copyright: Amy Pyle-Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
This road is smooth enough for passenger vehicles in dry conditions
Once you reach the trailhead, register and pass the pipe gate, users will be dropping in elevation about 500 feet into Withers Canyon. (Ranching is a primary means of livelihood in this area. Please close gates and do not disturb livestock.) Within one mile of the pipe gate visitors will reach the Purgatoire River which flows northeasterly through the canyon. Within 3.7 miles of the trailhead visitors will reach the Dolores Mission and Cemetery site. The mission was built sometime between 1871 and 1889, when Mexican pioneers first began to settle permanently in the valley. Partial remains of the mission and cemetery are visible.
The next attraction in the canyon is 5.3 miles from the pipe gate. It is the largest documented dinosaur track site in North America. The site extends .25 miles and contains over 1300 visible tracks, that comprise about 100 different trackways. The dinosaurs inhabited the area 150 million years ago when a shallow lake covered the region. They left their footprints on the shores of this lake. Tracks of carnivores (60%) and herbivores (40%) exist at this site. The significance of this site stems from the evidence of social behavior among the huge reptiles.
The Rourke Ranch lies 8.7 miles from the pipe gate. The site was a cattle and horse ranch founded by Eugene Rourke in 1871. Three generations of the Rourke Family lived and worked on the ranch. At its sale in 1971 it was known as one of the oldest and most successful enterprises in southeast Colorado with a holding of 52,000 acres.
The facilities along the trail include three portable toilets at the bulletin board (County Road 25 and B junction), track site and Rourke Ranch. No drinking water is provided anywhere in Picket Wire Canyonlands. Please check with the Comanche National Grassland Office in La Junta about road and weather conditions before entering this remote area.
Directions from La Junta: Drive south on Highway 109 for 13 miles to County Road 802. Turn right (west) on to 802 and travel eight miles to the junction with County Road 25. Turn left (south) on to 25 and proceed 6 miles to a sharp right turn in the road. A bulletin board and parking lot lie straight ahead. Turn into the parking lot. The bulletin board has pertinent information about the site and a map or the region. If you turn left from 25 you'll see Forest Developed Road 500A. Follow signs three miles to the Picket Wire Canyonlands. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for this road by the Forest Service. Although, I made it to the pipe gate in my Volkswagen Golf on a dry day.