Located 12 miles northwest of Durango, the La Plata Mountains are a small subrange of the San Juan Mountains. The La Platas showcase the rugged beauty of the southwest year-round with lofty peaks, sweeping valleys, and meandering streams. The name “La Plata” translates to “the silver” in Spanish, as the range was once home to many silver mining operations that dotted the landscape.
The La Plata Mountains are an excellent place to hike, camp, backpack, fish, and picnic in the summer.
During the winter months, the La Plata Mountains are a superb location for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountaineering, and snowmobiling.
Visitors will find many opportunities to hike throughout the range along La Plata Canyon Road and Forest Road 561. Most of these routes double as OHV trails and eventually narrow into social trails as elevation is gained.
The La Plata Mountains provide a unique biking experience for sightseers seeking a high-altitude challenge. Visitors can weave through La Plata Canyon Road (Highway 124) or race through old-growth forests on Aspen Loop.
The La Plata Mountains are home to world-class OHVing and Offroading. Routes can be found off La Plata Canyon Road and can place visitors close to summits like Deadwood Mountain and Parrott Peak. Visitors can also drive the entire length of La Plata Canyon Road to see stunning vistas at the Kennebeck Pass Scenic Overlook.
There are many campgrounds in the La Plata Mountains, including Kroeger Campground, Transfer Campground, La Plata City Campground, Ruby Campground, Darby Campground, Lewis Creek Campground, West Dolores Campground, Mavreeso Campground, Madden Creek Campground, Snowslide Campground, and Bay City Campground. Some, but not all, of these sites will require advanced reservations via recreation.gov.
To check the status of a campsite, go to usda.gov.
Free, dispersed camping is allowed in publicly-owned areas of the La Plata Mountains, but private property is off limits.
Avid flyfishers can find brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and brook trout along the La Plata River. Popular fishing spots include Lewis Creek, Darby, and Kroeger.
The La Plata Mountains are a playground for snowmobilers looking for backcountry powder. Check the Colorado Avalanche Infomation Center for avalanche conditions before hitting the slopes. For information on groomed trails, contact the San Juan Sledders Snowmobile Club.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing spots can be found in the La Plata Mountains. From late November until early April, visitors can enjoy a lengthy trip in the backcountry on routes like Aspen Loop and Owen’s Basin.
The La Plata Mountains are less trafficked than their parent range, the San Juans. Visitors are afforded a fantastic opportunity to summit peaks and relish breathtaking views in solitude. While the range lacks any fourteeners, it is home to six thirteeners: Hesperus Mountain, Lavender, Mount Moss, Babcock Peak, Centennial Peak, and Burwell Peak.
Most peaks will require intensive hikes off-trail and some knowledge of mountaineering best practices (Class 2-3). Some routes require roped climbing due to steepness and extreme terrain (Class 4 or Class 5).
Detailed descriptions of difficulty levels in mountaineering
Campground guide for the La Plata Mountains provided by usda.gov
Avalanche Conditions via Colorado Avalanche Infomation Center
A valid Colorado fishing license is required to fish in the La Plata River.
If you plan on going into the backcountry, leave an itinerary of your trip with someone you trust.
Bring plenty of water with you.
If you plan on bagging peaks, get an early start to beat the afternoon storms.
The sun is much stronger at higher altitudes, so apply and reapply sunscreen liberally every two hours.
Three barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible campsites are Transfer Campground, Mavreeso Campground, and West Dolores Campground.
Know and obey the fire restrictions before heading out.
Do not disperse camp within 100 feet of any water source.
Please pack out all trash and waste, including your pet's waste.
Protect fragile alpine environments and stay on marked trails.
Follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.
Dogs must be leashed or otherwise physically restrained. Do not leave pets unattended.
Store your food in a designated bear cache, vault, or hang.