Explore the Best Horseback Trail Riding in Durango
Horseback riding is one of the best ways to see Durango’s beautiful landscape, experience the beauty, and feel a connection with the land. From canyons to meadows to ridgelines, the view from horseback is spectacular. Horseback riding was also central to Durango’s founding, and with the Old West roots of the town, you might feel like you are in a Hollywood movie, galloping through the plains on a cattle drive or trotting into town to visit the local saloon.
Because horseback trail riding is so popular, there are plenty of spectacular trails to choose from and plenty of skilled guides to show you the most breathtaking forests and peaceful meadows. From beginners to experienced riders, everyone will be able to find the perfect trail in Durango.
Here are our favorite horseback riding trails in Durango, Colorado:
#10 Purgatory Flats Trail
Purgatory Flats is a 10-mile out-and-back trail just outside Durango. The Purgatory Trail winds through switchbacks of aspen-fir forest opening up onto Purgatory Flats and finally intersecting with the Animas River Trail. Rated moderate difficulty, the trail does not see steep elevation gain and is appealing for its easy descent into lower elevations.
The picturesque trail is absolutely majestic on horseback, featuring dappled forests, open meadows, and even a small creek to ford. Stop by Cascade Creek for a snack, or pack lunch and have a picnic by Lake Purgatory close to the trailhead after the trip.
#9 Haviland Lake Trail
Haviland Lake Trail features the best of the San Juan National Forest, with little elevation gain, miles of ponderosa forests, and a peaceful lake with fishing, camping, and boating. At almost 4 miles in length and moderate difficulty, this is the perfect trail to slow your pace, relax, and get to know the Colorado landscape.
This peaceful outdoor paradise is a popular getaway spot for families, day-trippers, fishermen, and campers, so consider visiting at off-hours to experience the tranquility of crisp mountain air and the companionship of your sure-footed horse.
#8 Hermosa Creek Trail
One of the premier trails in the area, the Hermosa Creek Trail is a fairly long 18.4-mile trail starting at Purgatory Flats and following Hermosa Creek south towards Durango. The multi-use trail is frequented by dog walkers, mountain bikers, and the occasional ATV, so be ready to share the trail—but the views are worth it.
Scenic forests, open meadows, and the picturesque Hermosa creek, this trail has it all. Head out in the spring or summer to catch Colorado’s famous wildflowers along the trail and across the meadows.
#7 Colorado Trail from Molas Pass
North of Durango, in what is called the “high country,” Molas Pass sits as a gateway and scenic overlook onto the San Juan Mountains. Standing at the pass, you can see the often snow-capped Grenadiers, the Twilights, and the Needles, as well as ponderosa forests for miles to the south. The tranquil Molas Lake sits nestled into the gently sloping valley below the pass.
Head about ½ mile north from Molas Pass (toward Silverton) and you will see a dirt road off to the left. This road will travel past a small campground and then terminates at a large parking area. You can access the Colorado Trail here and then head up toward North Lime Creek. Much of the trail is above the treeline, freeing the meadows for spectacular wildflower displays.
While the trail is moderate and well-graded, be prepared to pace yourself due to the altitude, and bring along some extra water to stay hydrated.
#6 Red Creek Loop Trail
The Red Creek Loop Trail is a great option for those looking for a lightly trafficked loop trail featuring stunning views and beautiful wildflowers. The full stretch is roughly ten miles depending on how close you park to the trailhead, connecting the Red Creek Trail with the Missionary Ridge Trail and the First Fork Trail to create a loop.
The Red Creek section follows the creek out to Missionary Ridge where it gains altitude in a series of switchbacks to follow the ridge and alternate between aspen forests and open hillside before looping back around.
This trail is rated moderate to difficult and involves a significant amount of elevation gain and descent.
#5 McPhee Overlook Trail
This moderate, lightly trafficked trail in nearby Dolores, Colorado follows the lakeshore of the McPhee Reservoir, turns off for an overlook, and continues down to the lake again. The full trail extends beyond House Creek Campground, but the mileage from the trailhead to the campground is just over 7 miles.
This trail cannot be beaten for a peaceful day trip with elevated overlooks onto the lake. The McPhee Reservoir area is also a protected habitat for elk, and you may spot some of the majestic animals on your ride.
#4 Boggy Draw Loop
The Boggy Draw Loop is an 8.4-mile loop trail in the Dolores, Colorado area. The Boggy Draw trail system is an extensive network of trails crisscrossing their way through ponderosa forest, out to the McPhee Reservoir, and back towards Dolores.
This loop is moderate difficulty, and popular with mountain bikers, so consider heading out at off-hours to have the trail to yourself.
The Boggy Draw Loop is fairly flat, winding through scenic pine forests and picturesque meadows, often covered in wildflowers.
It’s easy to connect with nature on this trail, with plenty of wildlife to be spotted including elk, deer, songbirds, and waterfowl, as well as the herds of cows that wander the trail, to and from nearby pastures.
#3 Steven’s Creek Trail
Steven’s Creek Trail, just outside Durango, is a 7.25 mile out and back trail, starting from the Steven’s Creek trailhead off CR 250 and intersecting with the Missionary Ridge Trail System. With over 3,500ft of elevation gain and a rating of difficult, the spectacular views at the apex are well-earned and so much sweeter because of it.
You will climb through sweet-scented aspen corridors into open meadows filled with larkspur, dandelion and alpine rose. The fresh mountain air turns crisp at these altitudes, and the trail overlooks graceful mountains in the background and sunny ponderosa-flecked meadows as far as the eye can see.
#2 La Plata Canyon on County Road 124
The La Plata Canyon trail system covers La Plata Canyon with its scenic trails traveling through the river-cut canyon, winding around and over the La Plata Mountains at Kennebec Pass. The wildflowers that cover the canyon in the spring and summer are truly breathtaking, and not to be missed on your trip.
County Road 124 follows La Plata Canyon until it turns to dirt and then continues as a trail up to Kennebec Pass with an overlook across the entire mountain range. This is a perfect trail on horseback as the road is not passable by all but the highest clearance 4x4 vehicles.
Stop at the overlook and turn back (about 9 miles) or continue on to one of the many campsites and the alpine lake at the end of the trail.
#1 Jones Creek Trail
If you are a wildflower enthusiast (we definitely are), Jones Creek Trail is the horseback trail for you. The trail is 8.2 miles, following Jones Creek and terminating in the Lower Hermosa campground. Tall forests open up to lush meadows of columbine, Indian paintbrush, bluebell, and prairie rocket.
Jones Creek Trail transitions through a variety of ecosystems, giving you the full Colorado experience of alpine forest, semi-arid rock formations, flora-filled meadows, and, of course, views of the majestic La Plata mountain range.
Bring a picnic and pick your favorite meadow to sit and enjoy the bright Colorado sun and fresh mountain air.
Riding a horse throughout Durango is one of the best ways to experience everything that our town and the surrounding area have to offer. From canyons to meadows to ridgelines, the view from horseback is spectacular.
Hopefully, through the course of this blog, you’ve found the perfect horseback riding trail for your next adventure in Durango, Colorado!