Experiencing Junction Creek OHV In Durango, Colorado
When it comes to nature, opinions differ on how it should be enjoyed. If you like off-roading, then you are going to want to get out in your 4x4 and see what’s out there. Unfortunately, not all families are united in this way of thought. So, what if your significant other doesn’t enjoy the adrenaline of extreme off-roading, but you still want to get out in your 4x4?
Junction Creek OHV may just be the answer, without you doing time in the doghouse. You get the best of what nature lovers, and off-roaders, enjoy and it’s just a few minutes from downtown Durango, Co.
Most OHV roads, hiking trails, and lookouts, are a challenge to get to, due to their distance from civilization. Sometimes having to drive an hour, or more, just to get to the trailhead. Not Junction Creek OHV though. From downtown Durango, you can be on a hiking trail, or starting your way up to the Animas Valley overlook and OHV road in about 15 minutes. Just turn on to W. 25th Street, and head toward Junction Creek Campground.
Most guidebooks rate Junction Creek OHV as being an "easy", trail. I agree with this as an overall rating. Still, depending on the time of year, and the weather, it could be a moderately difficult trail toward the top. You can do the trail in about half a day. Allowing plenty of time to stop, explore, and enjoy the vistas.
Junction Creek OHV is a “Shelf Road” style trail and is around 23 miles long. The first 7 miles are maintained gravel road up to the Animas Valley overlook parking. After that, you start on the official OHV trail. Junction Creek OHV is not a circuit trail for vehicles. You must turn around at the top.
As you climb higher up Animas Mountain, your first glimpse of how beautiful the scenery will be is made evident at the Animas Valley Overlook. Continuing up the trail, you‘ll see forest of Aspen, Fir, beautiful flowers, and some very cool mountain and rock formations. Depending on the time of day, you may even see some wild life. Most commonly spotted are Mule Deer, Elk, ground squirrels, and numerous varieties of birds, such as Hawks and Eagles. Once the OHV portion starts, camping is once again allowed.
You will notice various changes in the road. It starts as a fine dirt, almost sandy. Then it becomes rocky, and then even a hard clay. Even though the trail is rated “easy”, this doesn’t mean that it’s risk free. It has it’s own challenges. The road itself was stable enough, and considerably flat (there are a few off-camber sections). Portions of the mountain are covered in large sections of Shale rock that can slide from above onto the main trail. On our outing, we ran across two downed trees, and a boulder in the middle of the road. One of the trees as pulled out of the center of the trail, but still pushed us to the very edge of the shelf road, to squeeze by. At the top, we were forced to turn around before we reached the end. Since we where running the trail in early June, there was still a good amount of snow on the last 3-4 miles of trail. Instead of chancing it, we turned around and came down.
Using a 4x4 on this trail is not absolutely necessary. That being said, it is highly recommended. Obstacles such as rain ruts, large rocks that have fallen, and snow, can definitely make driving a vehicle with a lower stance more prone to damage. Your vehicle will not need a huge lift. Having 32 inch tires, or larger, will make it easier to maneuver around the debris in the trail.
We did have cell coverage for a good portion of the trail as well. However, there are a few spots were we lost coverage. Some portions of the trail are tight, narrow, and have drop-offs at the roads edge. For the aforementioned reasons, plus the fact that you may not pass another vehicle on large portions of the trail, having self-recovery equipment is a good idea. Another good idea would be to have emergency packs in the vehicle. Blankets, food, extra clothing and such, could be useful if you happened to have an emergency while closer to the top.
|Fir, Pine, and Aspen forest are a beautiful site. These mixed with the mountainous rock formations make for a very incredible scenes for your off-roading experience. (Photo Credit: Eric McGrew)|
Overall though, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this trail. My wife, even though white knuckled thru a few sections, also said that she enjoyed the scenery. She hasn’t said so yet, but I’m pretty sure she would do it again. I know I will!