Hiking around Durango, Colorado can be as diverse and magnificent as the landscape itself.  From a short day hike taking only a few hours, to an adventurous backpacking trip taking a few days, there is something for everyone.   Enjoy desert hikes with ancient Anasazi ruins or summit high mountain peaks with spectacular views, all within a few hours drive of Durango.  For the purposes of this site hiking has been divided into 3 main categories of day hikes, backpacking, and 14ers.  If you enjoy hiking and have never visited the southwestern region of Colorado, you are truly missing out on experiences and breathtaking beauty that can last for a lifetime!    
Day hikes, including any hike that can be accomplished easily within a day.  This could be an adventure that takes up a major portion of the day or merely a couple hours.  In Colorado it is always best to be prepared, even for a day hike that will only take an hour or two.  It is a good idea to let someone know where you are going, take water, and bring layers of clothing with rain gear.  Below is a list of some of the popular trails around Durango that are great for taking a day hike, a few of the trails are also good for longer adventures if you have the time! 
Backpacking trips, including any hiking trip where you carry all your camping gear in a pack to stay for an over night trip in the great outdoors.  This could be a single night, returning back to the comfort of you home after two days or...  possibly an adventure where you are planning to spend several nights camping outside in the wilderness.  This kind of hiking trip takes more planning, preparation and time.  It requires you to be in better physical shape, especially endurance wise.  More gear is also needed.  A few thing I personally would never go on a backpacking trip without include:  a few bottles of water, a lighter/matches, rain gear, a good compass, comfortable broke-in hiking boots, warm clothing, and a water filter.  These items are far from the only things that I would be packing with me, but those are a few of the essentials.  If you have never done a backpacking trip or are new to the area I would STRONGLY advise going with someone who has, for safety and self preservation.  I would also recommend planning a trip like this in mid to late summer.  This IS Colorado and it is not that uncommon for it to snow in the mountains even in mid and late summer.  Although I do love my day hikes, backpack trips are by far one of my favorite types of hiking trips to do!  It is always an amazing adventure and a great way to get in shape. In this region of Colorado the amount of trails available for backpacking is virtually limitless!  Below is a list of some popular trails for backpacking trips around the Durango area of Colorado.
Colorado Trail Hermosa Creek Mountain View Crest Grand Turk & Sultan
Emerald Lake Crater Lake Hesperus Mountain Ice Lake Basin Loop  
In the southwest region of Colorado, there are some mountain summits that span above 14,000 feet near Durango.  “A land of endless mountains...  NO other range in the contiguous United States contains as much land above 10,00 feet as do the San Juan Mountains (Borneman and Lyndon1992).”  Below is a list of the mountain peaks that reach over 14,000 feet in the San Juan Mountain Range.
14ers in the San Juans
Near Town
Few Hours Drive
Bisti Badlands Rainbow Trail Coal Creak Trail Prospect Trail  
Continental Divide Trail Fourmile Lake Loop Vallecito Creek Trail

View San Juan Mountains 14ers in a larger map
Windom Peak:  14,082 feet Sunlight Peak:  14,059 feet Mount Eolus:  14,083 feet Three fourteeners are found in the rugged, craggy Needle Mountains:  Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak, and Mount Eolus.  Although these fourteeners are the closest to Durango, they are also the most isolated in terms of trying to reach.  These peaks are seldom viewed by the causal tourist being accessible only by long hiking trails in the Weminuche Wilderness.  Believe it or not, the most commonly used and practical approach for climbing these fourteeners begins with a ride on the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge train!  This approach cuts off miles of long, long hiking from trail heads that can be reached by roads.  With proper planning it is possible to climb all three of these 14ners in the same trip.
Needle Mountains Fourteeners
The Needle Mountains Photographer:   James Hobby
Lizard Head Wilderness Fourteeners
Mount Wilson:  14,246 feet El Diente Peak:  14,159 feet Wilson Peak:  14,017 feet There are 3 fourteeners found within the Lizard Head Wilderness southwest of Telluride and are all in very close proximity to each other:  Mount Wilson (14,246 feet), El Diente (14,159 feet), and Wilson Peak (14,017 feet).  These 3 fourteeners are far from being an easy ascent, rating very high on the difficulty and danger levels.  In fact, both Mount Wilson and El Diente rate within the top 10 most difficult 14ners in all of Colorado!  Mount Wilson and El Diente Peak are joined by a connecting ridge making it possible to summit both of these 14ners together, which makes for a very long day due to the difficult terrain.  Wilson Peak is located just North of the El Diente - Mount Wilson ridge.  Summiting Wilson Peak is a shorter accent if starting from the Sliver Pick Mine, making it roughly a 2 mile hike, with a 3,000 foot ascent.
View of Mount Wilson & Wilson Peak Photo taken between 1907-1910
Hinsdale County Fourteeners
Sunshine Peak:  14,001 feet Redcloud Peak:  14,034 feet Handies Peak:  14,048 feet There are 3 fourteeners found in Hinsdale county just southwest of Lake City:  Sunshine Peak, Redcloud Peak and Handies Peak.  The Sunshine and Redcloud Peaks are only about a mile and a half apart.  Sunshine is the southern 14ner while Redcloud is the northern 14ner running along the same ridge line.  Handies Peak is roughly 5 miles to the west of Sunshine Peak.  Ascents of Sunshine and Redcloud can be done in the same day.  Handies is far enough away from these 2 peaks to require a separate trip or day to summit.  Traditionally the ascent of Redcloud and Sunshine begins at Silver Creek trailhead, 6 miles past Mill Creek Campground, near Lake City.  To climb Handies Peak the regular approach begins on the American Basin’s West slope, roughly 23 miles from Lake City.
View of Mount Redcloud Peak Photo by:  Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Mount Sneffels Fourteener
Mount Sneffels:  14,150 feet Mount Sneffels is one of the most photographed mountain peaks in all of Colorado.  It can be seen while driving over Dallas Divide on highway 62.  The peak is located about 5 miles West of Ouray, Colorado.  The most common ascent of this fourteener begins a few miles past the Camp Bird Mine, at the townsite of Sneffels where the trail leads into the Yankee Boy Basin.  The hike from the town of Sneffels to the summit is roughly 3 1/2 miles with a gain of 3,500 feet.  If snow, please note:  during the ascent of this peak it is important to survey for avalanche danger.  Mount Sneffels was named after Mount Snaefell, described in Jules Verne’s book, Journey to the Center of the Earth (a large volcano located in Iceland). 
View of Mount Sneffels Photo by:  Debivort @ wikipedia
Uncompahgre & Wetterhorn Fourteeners
Uncompahgre Peak:  14,309 feet Wetterhorn Peak:  14,015 feet Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn peaks are less and 3 miles apart and located Northwest of Lake City, Colorado.  Uncompahgre is a Ute word meaning “hot water spring.” The Uncompahgre Peak is the tallest fourteener in the San Jaun Mountains and the 6th highest peak in all of Colorado.  Despite its size the Uncompahgre is a much simpler ascent than Wetterhorn due to terrain.  Many people come to summit the Uncompahgre peak alone approaching from the Nellie Creek drainage at the beginning of Big Blue Wilderness boundary.  Uncompahgre can be summited from this approach in 3 miles with an ascent of 2,900 feet.  It is possible to summit both of these fourteeners within the same trip approaching from Matterhorn Creek drainage, making for a very long day at 13 miles round trip and an elevation gain of 7,450 feet.
View of Uncompahgre Peak Photo from wikipedia
San Luis Peak Fourteener
San Luis Peak:  14,014 feet The San Luis Peak is a lone fourteener that lies about 10 miles North of Creede, Colorado.  This fourteener is located in the  La Garita Wilderness of the Rio Grande National Forest.  The San Luis Peak is noted as one of the hardest fourteeners to get to in Colorado, the climb itself is fairly straight forward with mild terrain compared to many others, but it is resting in an area 2 hours from the nearest paved road.  The hardest part of this fourteener is reaching the trail head. When approaching from the Gunnison side it is over a 60 mile trip in a vehicle on unpaved non-maintained roads.  This approach allows for a summit in single day without the need for backpacking.  From the Stewart Creek trailhead to the summit is roughly 6 miles with a gain of 3,500 feet in elevation.  Another approach can be taken from the Lake City side.  This cuts down driving time immensely but will require more hiking, making it a better backpacking trip than a day hike.  From the trailhead at Spring Creek to the summit is about 9 miles with a gain of 5,000 feet.
View from San Luis Peak Photo from wikipedia
© DuranGO Outdoors