Picket Wire Canyonlands

La Junta, Colorado 81050

Picket Wire Canyonlands

Picket Wire Canyonlands Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"For the first-time visitor to the plains region of eastern Colorado, the relatively deep and expansive canyon system carved by the Purgatoire River might come as quite a shock. Some 350 feet deep and rimmed by substantial cliff faces of sandstone, these canyons offer truly wonderful hiking opportunities where access is permitted. One such place is the Picket Wire Canyonlands area, located south of La Junta.

Recently transferred to the Comanche National Grassland from the U.S. Army, this area offers not only some surprising canyon scenery but also a treasure chest of paleontological, prehistoric, and historic delights. The name Picket Wire originated with the way in which French trappers pronounced the Spanish-inspired name, Purgatoire. Locals have held on to the misnomer ever since."

More Picket Wire Canyonlands Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Dog Hikes Colorado (Falcon Guides)
Bob D’Antonio, Maryann Gaug, Stewart Green, Linda B. Mullally, and Tracy Salcedo-Chourré.
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"Picket Wire Canyonlands is a trip back in time, visiting early homesteads, a mission, and traveling even farther back to dinosaurs. It is a beautiful rimrock canyon with junipers, cacti, grasses, cottonwoods, and the Purgatoire River. Once down in the wide canyon, the hike is mostly gentle with a few hills. Intricately carved headstones in an old cemetery, and dinosaur tracks from 150 million years ago, are the highlights of this hike. The dinosaur tracksite is the largest documented in North America." Read more
Hiking Colorado (Falcon Guides)
Maryann Gaug, Revised by Sandy Heise
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"Picket Wire Canyonlands is a trip back in time, visiting early homesteads, a mission, and traveling even farther back to dinosaurs. It is a beautiful rimrock canyon with junipers, cactus, grasses, cottonwoods, and the Purgatoire River. Once down in the wide canyon, the hike is mostly gentle with a few hills. Intricately carved headstones in an old cemetery, and dinosaur tracks from 150 million years ago, are the highlights of this hike. The dinosaur tracksite is the largest documented in North America." Read more

Picket Wire Canyonlands Reviews

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11/6/2006
Picketwire Canyon is an unbelievable place in a completely unexpected location. This canyon has something for everyone. The scenery is AMAZING! Once you descend into the canyon (which is steep whether you follow the trail or hike your own path), the hiking is reasonably flat. But if you explore the boulders strewn on canyon sides, you will be rewarded with impressive rock art that is quite numerous (though far from on every rock, so you have to work for the reward). There are modern ruins along the way in the Dust Bowl homestead & the Mission. And you can hike the 5+ mi. (one-way) to the dinosaur tracksite - a place that is worth every step there and back. I won’t detail it here, because I think everyone should make it a point to check it out for themselves!!! One of the very best things about this hike is the solitude. During the week, you’re likely to have the trail to yourself, with only a stray roar from an airplane breaking a bird’s song or the silence. On weekends, you may encounter the 4WD auto tour, mtn bikers or horses, but I can’t imagine this trail ever gets very busy. Things to know about this hike: 1. Bring lots of water. I went through 2L each time in 65 deg. weather. 2. You have to cross the river to get to the main tracksite. We brought Crocs and aqua socks for this and had no problems on the slick-rock river bottom. The water in the Fall reached 2/3 to the knee and was much colder this time, after the first major snowfall at the headwaters, than it was at the end of Sept (it was refreshingly cold then). 3. Any measurable precipitation can make the county road and the road to the trailhead difficult, if not impassable. Call the Comanche Nat’l Grasslands office in La Junta for road conditions before driving all the way out there! NOTE: The US Army wants this area back! If they succeed, it will be lost to the public FOREVER! Visit it before it’s gone, and get involved in the fight against the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site expansion!
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Trail Information

La Junta
Nearby City
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
17.4
Distance
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Difficult
Skill Level
12 hours
Duration
Year-round
Season
4,660 feet
Trailhead Elevation
4,660 feet
Top Elevation
Comanche National Grassland
Local Contacts
USGS Riley Canyon, Beaty Canyon, O V Mesa
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018