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La Plata Canyon Road: Nearest Town:  Durango Difficulty Rating:  Easy/Moderate End Points: Start:  Hwy 160 at Hesperus 37.2941,-108.0459 Finish:  The Notch near Snowstorm Peak 37.4408,-108.0078 Estimated Open Season:  May to October Estimated Miles:  15 miles one-way Estimated Drive Time:  2 hours one-way La Plata Canyon Road La Plata Canyon (CR 124) is a great stretch road that starts just west of Hesperus Colorado off of Hwy 160w. Our map can provide detailed directions by clicking on the trailhead icon and following the instructions. This area is an excellent choice for camping, hiking, easy to moderate off-roading and accesses the last section of the Colorado Trail from the top of Kennebec Pass. Historically, this spot was a typical mining boom with most of the roads being built by prospectors looking for gold and silver in the 1800's. La Plata City, Parrot City and Bay City were just a few of the larger communities in the canyon most of which were just tents, shacks, log cabins and a few buildings. Almost all of these sites have become ghost towns but you can still see the remains of a few of the larger mines and mills. La Plata Canyon is still an attractive spot for modern geologists and miners because there is still gold in them thar hills. Many of the 4x4 trails that branch off of the main road dead end at mines and milling sites. They also provide a good starting point for mountain climbers that want to summit one of the many peaks in the La Plata Mountain Range. Note: there are areas marked as private property that are people's residences and claims. Please be respectful and do not enter any closed or private property. From the highway (160w) La Plata Canyon (CR 124) is a nice paved road for a few miles until you reach the cattle guard at the entrance of the canyon where it turns to gravel. There are many good designated campsites along here that are great for camper trailers and tents close to the stream. This can provide a great base camp for hunting or off roaders wanting an extended stay. Be sure to follow all State Forest Service Signs posted with regulations. There are also several other campgrounds along CR 124 that are very nice but be aware that the further up the canyon you travel the rougher the road will become.  La Plata Canyon D: One of the first off chutes from the main road will be on the left about 2.25 miles from the entrance (as you are going north) and is marked by a small Forest Service Sign designated La Plata Canyon D #571.D This trail is a mid to high moderate rating that you will need four wheel drive and good clearance to reach the destination. The entire road is about 2 miles with a mine at the end and puts you right at the base of Parrott Peak (11,854') and Madden Peak (11,972') which are both popular mountains to climb. Near the top of the road is a stream crossing that may or may not have water in it depending on the season, that will be fairly rough and rocky so be sure to use good judgment and go slow. Bedrock Creek & La Plata Canyon E: The next two off chutes are on the left about one mile further (3.25 miles in from the entrance) and are marked with Forest Service Road #344 Bedrock Creek and La Plata Canyon E #571.E The entrances are quite close to each other and are near the Ghost Town of La Plata City. You will need four wheel drive and good clearance as both of these trails are in the mid to upper moderate rating. The first (Bedrock Creek) is a little over 2 ½ miles and takes you past the Old Neglected Mine. There are plenty of pullouts to multiple old mines and trails along the way and the end of the road puts you right below Gibbs Peak (12,286') The next trail (La Plata Canyon E #571.E) is only about 1 ½ miles from the main road just up from Bedrock Creek and terminates at an old mine with large tailings pile. Boren Creek: Onward to the next trail on the left (west) of the main road which is about one mile more up the canyon (4 ½ miles from entrance approx.) The trail is marked as Boren Creek #61 and follows along the drainage for a little over 2 ½ miles. Four Wheel Drive is necessary as the road is rated as moderate and there are multiple trails to mines to either side that can be hiked to. The road terminates at a mine near a massive scree field just below Babcock Peak (13,180') Basin Creek to Tomahawk Mill & Diorite Peak: Moving on to the next and very popular trail on the left (west) of the main road which is about 2 miles past Boren Creek (6 ½ miles from entrance) This is marked as Basin Creek #499 which is only about 2 miles to the termination and will require four wheel drive and good ground clearance as the trail is a middle moderate difficulty. Expect lots of rocks to slow you down. The road ends at the famous Tomahawk Mine (Tomahawk Mill) that has a neat old building and lots of tailings piles. This road disappears and becomes a hiking trail zigzagging northwest up the mountainside which will take you to the summit of Diorite Peak (12,761') one of the most popular and easier climbs. The further you travel up the main road (La Plata Canyon Cr 124) the rougher it will get. The first one half is easy and the second half is moderate and rough. Nothing too technical but it is very rocky with some steep climbs that will require a 4x4 with adequate ground clearance. Most stock OHV's have little trouble making it to the summit just be sure to use good judgment and take it slow. Columbus Basin: The largest and most popular side route from the main road is at about the 8 ½ mile mark on the right side (East) called Columbus Basin and is marked as Forest Service Road #498 This road is a 4x4 moderate rating that travels to the east for about 3 miles and then swings north to the Bessie G gold mine. The views back down Columbus Basin towards Kennebec pass are amazing and Snowstorm Peak (12,511') looms above you to the North. The final push to the top of the canyon is past the junction of Columbus Basin and is where the road becomes the most fun. You will pass old mines, boilers, decrepit buildings and amazing fields of wild flowers along the way. Just before the top there is a road to the right (east) that takes you up to what is locally called "the notch" because of the square cut in the rocks you will see at the end of the trail. The road to the notch is quite narrow and you should wait for traffic to clear before climbing or descending and the turnaround at the top can be "a bit spooky" because of the feeling of exposure. The views into Durango from The Notch are well worth the trip. The top of La Plata Canyon puts you at the edge of Kennebec pass and the world famous Colorado Trail. There is plenty of parking and trails leading to Taylor Lake, Kennebec Pass and the Colorado trail are well signed which makes it a good spot to drop people off as a "shuttle" for mountain biking or hiking. La Plata Canyon takes you into some amazingly beautiful areas with major historical significance which is why it is so popular. Visitors should remember the "offroading mantra" which is "Stay the Trail" and help protect the historical sites by leaving the artifacts alone. Do Not climb in or around any of the old mines or structures. Besides being potentially dangerous the damage you could do would destroy some of our area heritage and lead to more sites being closed to the public all together. So if you want a great offroading adventure that is not too difficult has several nice campgrounds and access to some great trails and climbs. La Plata Canyon might just be the one for you. 

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Photographer:  James Hobby
Tomahawk Mill Photographer:  James Hobby