Calico Trail

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Calico Trail (Upper) (208)

The Calico Trail is comprised of two sections, the Upper and Lower Calico Trails. The lower portion of the trail is accessed via the Priest Gulch Trailhead (see Priest Gulch & Lower Calico Trails information sheet). The most northerly portion is referred to as the Upper Calico Trail; this portion of the trail is part of the National Recreation Trail (NRT) system. Beginning at the Calico Trailhead (see directions below for trail head access), the single-track trail makes its way over and around several peaks, as well as along fairly long stretches of narrow ridgelines. While these stretches afford some spectacular views, be aware of frequent afternoon thundershower activities, which are fairly common in late July and August. The view to the north includes 14,159-foot high El Diente Peak, which is within the Lizard Head Wilderness. The trail winds through a forest of spruce and fir as it follows the divide between the Dolores and West Dolores Rivers, climbing at an average grade of 8% to 11,866-foot high Papoose Peak. The Upper portion of the Calico NRT ends at the junction with West Fall Creek Trail (640) where the lower portion of the Calico Trail comes in. From this junction you can loop back to the Calico Trailhead via the Falls Creek and Winter Trails (202), or continue on to the Priest Gulch Trailhead via the Lower Calico Trail.

 General Notes:Starting elevation: 10,500 ft. (Calico Trailhead, FDR 471 near the Meadows)
Highest elevation: 12,150 ft. (Sockrider Peak)
Ending elevation: 8,050 ft. (Priest Gulch Trailhead)
Trail length one way: 19.2 miles
Maps: See Map 1— North of Dolores (link above), SJNF map, USGS 7 ½’maps: Wallace Ranch, Clyde Lake, Rico, Dolores Peak
Difficulty: moderate-difficult

Directions to the Upper Calico Trailhead: From Dolores on Highway 145, travel east 43 miles, and take the north end of the West Fork Road (FDR 535) turnoff, which is across the highway from Cayton Campground (7 miles north of Rico). The road switchbacks out of the Dolores River Canyon for several miles, then turns south on the Eagle Creek Road (FDR 471). The trailhead is about one mile down this road.

The Calico Trail comprises two sections, upper and lower. A loop hike is possible using the upper portion, which is also a designated National Recreation Trail (NRT). Starting from The Meadows at the Calico Trailhead, the Winter Trail (#202) branches to the northwest. It descends gradually for the first 2 miles, and then drops into the West Dolores Canyon, arriving just east of Dunton, 8,770 ft. The trail (now the Falls Creek Trail, #640) then starts up Fall Creek Canyon and climbs rapidly to join the Calico just northeast of Johnny Bull Mountain. From there it’s up over Sockrider Peak and back down to The Meadows. Total round trip is about 13 miles.

Calico Trail (Lower) (649)

The lower portion of the trail (#649) can be reached via the Priest Gulch Trailhead, (#645, see Priest Gulch Trail description for trailhead location). Originally designed as a stock drive into the high country, this trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Beginning at the Priest Gulch Trailhead, the lower Calico Trail begins by crossing Priest Gulch Creek via a walking bridge and starts a fairly steep accent up a red-rock ridge via many switchbacks. It will be a steady climb for about 1.4 miles through a mixed ponderosa pine and aspen forest before leveling out. For a loop hike using the lower portion of the trail, you can take the Priest Gulch Cut-Off (Trail #201) at mile 2.3, which will cut over to the Priest Gulch trail and back down to the Priest Gulch Trailhead for an approximately 5-mile loop hike.

Priest Gulch and Lower Calico Trails (645 & 208)

Access for both the Priest Gulch #645 and the Lower portion of the Calico #208 Trails is located at the Priest Gulch Trailhead, located across the highway from the Dolores River. From the town of Dolores, travel northeast for approximately 25 miles on Highway 145. The Priest Gulch trailhead is clearly marked on the north side of the highway; the turn is adjacent to a private driveway.For a 3.5-mile loop, take the Priest cutoff trail #201 at mile 1.25 on the Priest Gulch Trail and mile 1.75 on the Lower Calico Trail.The Priest Gulch Trail climbs in elevation alongside Priest Gulch drainage, it passes thru lush meadows and a forest of spruce, fir, and aspen. Common wildlife sightings might include Mule deer, Black bear, coyote, magpies, gray jays, Clark’s nutcracker, red tail hawk, and various woodpeckers, to name a few. This trail will terminate at the junction with the Calico Trail.The Lower Calico Trail was originally designed as a stock drive into the high country; this trail was built through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. The trail begins by crossing Priest Gulch Creek via a trail bridge, and starts a fairly steep accent up a red-dirt ridge via many switchbacks. Before leveling out, it will be a steady climb for 1.4 miles through mixed ponderosa pine and aspen forest. The trail continues north past the junction with Priest Gulch Trail where it eventually meets up with the junction of West Fork Falls Creek #640 and the Upper Calico #208 trails.It is possible to do a 16-mile loop back to the Priest Gulch Trailhead by using the Priest Gulch and the Lower Calico Trails.PACK IT

 General Notes:Starting elevation: 8,050 ft. (Priest Gulch Trailhead, Highway 145, across from the Priest Gulch campground)
Highest elevation: 12,150 ft (Sockrider Peak)
Ending elevation: 11,320 ft. (junction with Calico Trail)
Trail length one way: 7.5 miles
Maps: See Map 1— North of Dolores (link above), SJNF map, USGS 7½’ maps: Wallace Ranch, Clyde Lake, Rico, Dolores Peak
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Directions to trailhead: From Dolores on Highway 145, travel northeast 23 miles. The trailhead is clearly marked on the north side of the highway; the turn is next to a private driveway.

For a five-mile loop, take the Priest Gulch Cutoff Trail #201 at mile 1.5, which will take you up (it is steep!) to the lower portion of the Calico Trail and back down to the Priest Gulch Trailhead.

As the trail climbs alongside the Priest Gulch drainage, it passes through lush meadows and a forest of spruce, fir, and aspen. This trail intersects with the Calico Trail around mile 7.5. For a sixteen-mile loop hike, take the lower portion of the Calico Trail back to the Priest Gulch Trailhead. If on horseback, be aware the final stretch of the lower portion of the Calico Trail is very steep as it drops down into the Dolores River Canyon.

Stats

  • Trail Measurement: 22 Miles, Upper (19.2 Miles) and Lower (7.8 Miles)
  • Compass Latitude: 37°44'37.0"N
  • Compass Longitude: 108°04'54.0"W
  • Numeric Latitude: 37.743611
  • Numeric Longitude: -108.081667
  • Elevation in Meters: 2,449
  • Elevation in Feet: 8,036

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