Animas River Valley
We’ve dragged our feet long enough. It’s time to leave Durango behind and start on our Skyway journey. We’ve managed to delay our departure in order to experience the Iron Horse Classic, enjoy the river at its peak during Animas River Days, and attend a couple of downtown Durango festivals, but we want to arrive in Silverton in time for its award-winning Fourth of July celebration so we’d best hit the road.
The Animas River often runs high and late in the spring as heavy, mountain snows feed into it; the tumbling whitecaps offer river rats excellent water for rafting, kayaking and racing. But now it’s time to gas up the car and follow the river north. The Animas Valley is a special place, with moraines and the Animas River tracing the route left behind by ancient glaciers. I’ve made this drive hundreds of times and never tire of it.
Magnificent red cliffs line the fertile river valley and both are framed by the snow-capped peaks of the San Juans. Before we get too far out of town, we can note Trimble Hot Springs on our left. One of the joys of the high mountains are the hot mineral springs which bubble through the rocks and offer travelers respite for weary bones. Trimble isn’t necessarily the best hot springs we’ll pass on our trip over the Skyway, but it is the first. A little further down the road is the Dalton Ranch Golf Club, a beautiful course that challenges even the best players.
If golf is not your game, you’ll find on the west side of the road the ending to one of the most challenging mountain bike trails in the world—the 21-mile long Hermosa Creek Trail. Hermosa Creek Trail begins in a meadow behind Durango Mountain Resort and continues in a straight shot of single track following the track of Hermosa Creek as it wends its way to the Animas River; however, the entire trail is not downhill. Hard core locals are known to take the trail as a grueling 50-mile loop out of Durango…to each his own.
Hermosa Creek Mountain Bike Trail
There at least one other site to attract us as we continue up HWY 550. We must stop and partake of a picnic at Lake Haviland. You’ll have to pay a $5 fee for the privilege of spreading out your picnic on one of the tables supplied by the State Park Service Campground, but it’ll be well worth it. You might even cast a lure into the still waters of the lake and see what you can pull out. But we mustn’t linger too long; we need to carry on to our first stop: Durango Mountain Resort. We’d like to pull into DMR in time to enjoy some of the summer activities DMR has added to make it a year-round experience. We’ll start with those activities on our next post.