Dan Jagacewkski rides the Hermosa Creek Trail near Durango, CO

Dan Jagacewski rides the Hermosa Creek Trail near Durango, CO.  

One of the largest unprotected roadless areas in the state, Hermosa is the subject of debate about protection mechanisms. All acknowledge the central core trail will remain open to bikes, but some people want to Wilderness for the entire remaining area. A recent proposal would close part of the Colorado Trail on the western edge of the area, with no bypass options, causing a gigantic detour for long-distance cyclists.


Hermosa National Conservation Area
Hermosa National Protection Area
Agencies: USFS
Counties: La Plata and Montezuma
Nearest City of Town: Durango
Location: north of Durango, south of Purgatory Ski Area, and west of Highway 550

The Hermosa Basin is a very large, unprotected roadless area with dense coniferous forests and very popular trails about ten miles northwest of Durango. The CPP proposes protecting this dramatic landscape with both a National Conservation Area and a National Protection Area. The Protection Area would extend west from Hermosa Creek up to the Colorado Trail. This will continue to allow motorized travel in the east side of the basin, in accordance with current practice and plans.

The extremely popular Hermosa Creek Trail, which runs north-south through the heart of the area parallel to Hermosa Creek, will remain open to bicycling and motorcycling along its full width. it will be closed to wider motorized vehicles in a section that is currently impassible to such vehicles because of very steep side-slopes.

The NCA includes some roads in its western and southern areas, but for the most part is roadless. There appears to be very little private property within the NCA boundary. The NCA and Protection Areas will preserve the remote, backcountry experience of a long stretch of the Colorado Trail.

Hermosa compromise map

click image for full map (1.6mb)


Hermosa Update - April, 2009

Since the development of this proposal for CPP, the San Juan National Forest came out with a Draft Land Management Plan, which called for a new Wilderness in the western portion of Hermosa. It would close to bicycling five miles of the Colorado Trail, causing cyclists a 50-mile detour. Bicyling activists in Durango mobilized and come to a compromise with Wilderness advocates. They supported a smaller Wilderness, keeping the Colorado Trail open to bikes. They also are working on a "Special Management Area" proposal that would encompass a larger area -- an area not as big as this CPP proposal. Perhaps their proposal is smaller because they don't want to include roaded areas, whereas the CPP National Conservation Areas approach does allow inclusion of roads.

Recent rumor indicates the Forest Service will not endorse their proposal in its Final Plan. The process will end up in Congress. Their compromise proposal map is linked here.

Hermosa Trail ponderosa pines


Hermosa Fire Cycle

Hermosa's big ponderosa pine forest suffers from fire suppression. Ponderosa's need fire. How can we restore the fire cycles and still protect the place? If it's designated Wilderness, fire management options decrease.