Don't be discouraged by the title, our weekend road trips will never cease to exist, but in many ways this one felt like our last long adventure for a while.
I walked out of my last didactic class of my graduate degree mid week, and like any rational foreigner living in Phoenix, I got in the car and drove very far away.
When Justin and I first entered the trail running scene some years ago, we learned about Hardrock 100, denoted as the mother of all 100 mile races. The race runs from Silverton to Ouray through some of America's most beautiful mountains. Every year the race goes down, I find myself awe struck by every photo, lamenting that I can't reach my hand through and be there in the very moment. Our move to Arizona presented a stepping stone to the San Juan mountain range, and it was only a matter of time until we pulled the trigger.
Silverton is a solid 8 hour drive from Phoenix, so a long weekend is necessary to get the most out of the area. I was given a stack of maps and mountain biking books by a friend in Phoenix and spent time pouring over which trails were worth riding during our short stay. I know there were areas we missed, but I would highly recommend the same route we took if you're looking for a variety of terrain in all corners of the southern San Juans. Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1 & 2: Camp at little Molas Lake (picture above) which is kitty corner to the Colorado Trail. Most of the Colorado trail is restricted to foot traffic, with the exception of this part.
Day 3: Durango, Horse Gulch trail system
Day 4: Mancos, Phil's World trail system
The drive from Durango to Silverton takes you over Molas pass, which sits at 11,000 ft so be ready for the altitude beyond Durango. The obvious should also be noted - you are in a massive mountain range, so every trail either goes straight up or straight down. But don't let the elevation gain deter you, because the trails are ridiculously smooth and ride-able. Colorado mountain bikers are spoiled!
Now that I'm back to 2-day weekends we'll be restricted to areas within Arizona. If we had more time in the area we would have added Pagosa Springs, Ouray, and Telluride to the list of areas to explore. It would be easy to spend an entire summer exploring the area without overlapping the same trail or peak twice. If you have the chance to see this area, you'd be a fool to miss out.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.