Hiking Trails in Colorado | Burnt Timber Trail

Trail Information

Trail Name: Burnt Timber TrailHiking Trails in Colorado | Burnt Timber Trail

Location: N.E. of Durango, Colorado

Date: September 13, 2012

Time at the Trail Head: 7:00 am

Trail Length: 9.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,601 feet

Elev. at Trail Head: 8,608 feet

# of Hikers Passed: 1

# of Mnt. Bikers Passed: 0

# of Horses Passed: 1

Mosquitoes: 0

Trail Research

This was a crazy hiking adventure that stated out on the northwest end of the Rio Grand Reservoir, west of Creede, Colorado.

We had done our homework and researched the trail well but there are some things you just don’t know until you reach the trail.

Lost Trail

We arrived at the trailhead with high hopes and the area was gorgeous, with the Aspens turning their magnificent yellow but then we notice a warning signs about recent bear attacks in the area. It warned people not to sleep in tents or soft sided campers. Well, you know what we did, we ignored the warning sign and headed up the trail, which really was lost, no matter what the cost.

We were about a half mile into the hike when we heard the distinct sound of a bear and we all froze in our tracks. We quickly turned around and high tailed it out of there.

We did some quick research, but didn’t have the AllTrails App at that time, and decided to head over to a reservoir on the other side of mountains near Durango.

Burnt Timber Trail

I’m showing the AllTrails map here, but we did not have access to it back in 2012. The area was beautiful and we found an open campground in the San Juan National Forest, with an incredible stream and knew we had made the right choice, as there were no bear warning signs.

Drive to the Trail

The drive though the Colorado from Creed, through Pagosa Springs and on to Durango was spectacular. I wish I had some photos of the drive but instead, I will show you a picture of the original trail we chose at Lost Creek.

Lost Trailhead NW of the Rio Grand Reservoir

Our Day on the Trail

The first afternoon at the trailhead was taken up with setting up our tent and relaxing by the beautiful Florida River. We were the only ones at the camp ground, as it was mid week, and the weather was perfect so we were having a great time.

Florida Campground San Juan National Forest

Florida Campground

Florida River in the San Juan National Forest

We decided to hike up the Burnt Timber Trail the next day and were looking forward to some grand views and maybe even a lake or some beautiful locations along the Florida River.

Burnt Timber Trail

The trail was long but it was a gradual incline and we started to see some nice views.

Burnt Timber Trail

We continued climbing higher and our dog, Ranger, took every opportunity to get some water. I think he knew what we were oblivious to, and that was we were going to be extremely tired and thirsty on our way back down the mountain.


We started to see some more color in the aspens and the trail still looked promising.

Burnt Timber Trail

But, the trail kept climbing higher and higher.

Burnt Timber Trail

You have to remember that we lived in Oklahoma at the time and were not use to hiking at this altitude.

We were getting exhausted and knew we had reached the end of the trail for us flat landers. We took a few more pictures before heading back down the trail, but let me tell you, that was the longest hike back to the campground that I have ever experienced.San Juan National Forest

San Juan National Forest

Side Note: Our dog and ourselves had really reached the point of complete exhaustion and were putting ourselves in a potentially dangerous situation.

Trail Recommendations

This was a beautiful area to visit but it is an extremely long trail, especially if you’re not use to the area and the altitude. It’s a great horse trail and a trail for more experienced hikers.

This trail eventually leads to some incredible areas of the San Juan National Forest, looking out over some grand views.

Lessons Learned

We should have planned more appropriately and carried additional water. It would have also been good for us to take some shorter hikes to get use to the altitude before attempting this longer hike.

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I would love to know if you have had any experience on this trail or have other trails you love to hike. Leave a Comment Below or send me an Email.

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Burnt Timber Trail


Scenic Drive




Mountain Views


Lake or Stream Views


Well Maintained Trails



  • Spectacular Drive in the Rockies
  • Beautiful Campground
  • Gorgeous Florida River
  • Well Maintained Trails
  • Incredible Mountain Views


  • Long Trail
  • Best Views Farther Up the Trail

8 thoughts on “Hiking Trails in Colorado | Burnt Timber Trail”

  1. I love nature and I love hiking. The Burnt timber trail looks beautiful with breathtaking views and experiences. With the bears… I will have to reconsider. Are there any there to worry about? I will have to do some smaller trials first as you suggested, there is nothing worse than going on a trail and feeling unprepared. I like to always be prepared and feel confident when being out in nature. There is situations which you can’t be prepared for, but for most of them you can be. I will definitely get the app before going there. 

    • In the last 30 years I have seen 2 rattle snakes, heard 1 bear and seen many other non-dangerous animals.

      The thing is, you always need to be prepared, even though you have the highest probability of nothing ever happening.

      You can always carry some kind of weapon or bear spray. Your trekking poles can also help to fend off animals.

      You just need to be aware of your surroundings and give the animals the space they need, and never leave food close to your campsite, if you’re camping in a tent or sleeping in a hammock.


  2. RIck,

    I enjoyed reading your story on this hiking trip you went on. I haven’t visited Colorado or heard of the Burnt Timber Trail, but it looks like a gorgeous area. I have an aunt and uncle who live in Colorado, and they regularly hike there. I’ll have to ask them if they’ve hiked where you went to.

    I applaud you for going on the hike. I know those hiking trips can be challenging sometimes- I’m glad you didn’t put yourself in a worse situation. Still, I’m sure it was well worth the adventure.

    I like the Hydration Water Bladder you listed on your post. It’s good to have that on hand for a hiking trip. Is there anything else you would recommend to keep on hand for hiking? Or a must-have? I ask because I always leave out or forget one necessity whenever I travel.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I loved reading about it and the pictures look awesome!

    • Thanks for the great comments and questions.

      My list of must haves on hikes in Colorado start with these items:

      1. Great pack that can hold a water bladder

      2. Top of the line waterproof hiking boots

      3. Garmin inReach Explorer+ or Mini for Emergency Communication

      4. Appropriate head gear and other clothing

      5. Kull hiking pants

      6. Trekking poles

      7. ICETrekkers for winter hiking

      I could go on and on but these are some thoughts to start with.


  3. Hi Rick,

    Well, what can I say, the photos are simply amazing! Hiking in Colorado seems to be a superb choice and an extraordinary experience. 

    I wonder what were your emotions when you heard the bears? I can’t imagine myself in this situation.

    Your lack of water during hiking trails in Colorado made me think, what is the perfect amount to carry in a hiking trip like that? and what gear to use?



    • I was thinking…%^(#^%$…let’s get the…$*)(&#*(^… out of here, but not in those exact words.

      I wasn’t really extremely scared but I do think the hair was standing up on the back of my neck.

      I personally carry 1 liter of water for every 2 miles. I use an Osprey Talon 22 day hiking pack that holds at least a 3 liter bladder, plus I take 2 or 3 bottles of water in addition to that.


  4. Sounds like you guys had quite the adventure while hiking on the Burnt Timber Trail Rick.  That almost close encounter with that bear must have been real frightening, and i think you did the right thing by high tailing it out of the area.

    did you know that the Burnt Timber trail was given that name because of a fire that swept through the area years ago?  The aspen that you mentioned in your article which now flank the trail are there because they are naturally more resistant to fires.

    I found that picture of your dog Ranger in his little shoes kinda cute too.  I guess those must have done wonders to protect his feet from damage due to sharp rocks and such things.

    • Ranger was not a fan of the boots and it was comical watching him walk in them at first.

      I was not aware of how the trail got it’s name but thank you for sharing that.

      I’m dissapointed that we did not make it to the end of the trail because there were some incredible views up there and some really pretty high altitude lakes. I was just telling my son that we needed to return to that trail, now that we live here and are more use to the altitude.



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