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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.

Preparing for the climb to the Animas Valley Overlook, and the Junction Creek OHV road that starts directly after the overlook. Airing your tires down is a good practice, even on "easy" OHV/4x4 trails and roads. Having lower air pressure in your tires can ensure a safer, softer, and more enjoyable off-roading experience. (Photo Credit: Carissa McGrew)

 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.

On June 1st 2016, the last few miles of Junction Creek OHV road still had quite a bit of snow on it. Due to the snow, being by ourselves, and not knowing the road conditions ahead, we chose to turn around and go back down. We where about 3 miles from the end of the trail at this point. (Photo Credit: Eric McGrew)

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.

There are many portions of Junction Creek OHV that have open vistas from the shelf road. The base material of this OHV road change numerous times as you climb. Areas such as this one shown here, should be driven with caution. There are boulders that fall into the road, off-camber transitions that lead toward the cliff edge, and build ups of shale rock that can slide from above onto the road. Plus, from time to time, you may run across a oncoming vehicle. Since this is an OHV road, it's good to be cautious, as you may come across motorcycle riders, Mountain Bike riders, hikers, horses, atv's, utv's, and other vehicles of varying sizes.

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.

One of the many views of the Animas Valley from the Animas Valley Overlook. Just after the Animas Valley Overlook, you will see a sign stating that the Junction Creek OHV starts. A few hundred feet further up the road, you will see signs stating that camping is allowed. It should be noted that there is no camping allowed at the Animas Valley Overlook. There are, however, picnic tables, bbq grills, and pit toilets available at the overlook. Up to this point, the road is gravel. It is well maintained, but a bit loose. (Photo Credit: Eric McGrew)

 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. 

There are numerous Aspen tree groves along the Junction Creek OHV road. Carpeted with long grass, and contrasted by the firs, pins, and red dirt of the mountains make for beautiful scenery as you enjoy an easy, but entertaining drive. (Photo Credit: Eric McGrew)

 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.

Even though this rock/boulder was small enough for us to get around, it was laying dead in the middle of the OHV road, and just around a curve. If we had not been paying attention, going to fast, or just a bit careless, we could have run into it. It should also be noted that this rock was found right in an area where the shelf road has no shoulder, and the down slope is all loose Shale rock. So, paying attention while enjoying this OHV is a good idea. (Photo Credit: Eric McGrew)

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. 

"Off-Road Tires" aren't a must, but a good set of A/T tires is a good idea due to the conditions of the road, and the loose, sharp, rock that can be found here. With a 32 inch tire you will be able to comfortably attack most of what this road offers. Even most of the snow in the early part of the season should be manageable. Just remember to use caution and good judgment, as the roads are narrow, and have large drop-offs on the outside edge.  (Photo Credit: Eric McGrew)

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!


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