Calico National Recreation Trail

Written by Raymond Hamilton.

Elevation Difficulty Recommended Use Distance Season
10,500 feet Difficult

6.0 Miles As of 6-19-02 - Indefinitely

Driving Directions:

From Dunton, Colorado, From the "Meadows" located on Forest Road 535, 7.0 miles above Dunton, take Forest Road 471. The Calico Trailhead is signed approximately 1.0 mile south of this intersection. If you continue along Road 471 another 5.0 miles, you will come to the southern end of the trail--designated with a sign leading to East Fork Fall Creek Trail.

Hiking Directions:

This trail was cut out in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp. Up to 100 men worked on widening the trail, so it could be used to drive stock into the high country. Today this trail receives light use yet provides some of the best scenic views of the surrounding mountains. The trailhead on Forest Road 471 has parking areas, hitching posts, and restrooms. The Calico National Recreational Trail is a great place for day use or an extended trail experience. The Calico Trailhead begins in an area of vast mountain meadows interspersed with woods of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. To the north rises 14,000 foot high El Diente, which is within the Lizard Head Wilderness. The trail then moves south through wet, lush meadows and moves into a forest of spruce and fir as it follows the divide between Dolores and West Dolores Rivers, climbing at an average grade of 8 percent to 11,866 foot high Papoose Peak. At this point, the trail has risen above timberline and into a subalpine ecosystem. At the headwaters of the East Fork of Fall Creek, the Calico Trail drops in elevation and returns into the spruce-fir forest. The alpine ecosystem, above 11,000 feet, is basically devoid of trees. Dominant plant species include sedges, willows, fescues, bluegrass's, and numerous forbs. Permanent animal residents include pika, yellow-bellied marmot, weasels, and white-tailed ptarmigan. Mule deer and elk utilize this habitat during the summer. Migrant birds include the water pipit, rock wren, Wilson's warbler, and white-crowned sparrow. The Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir ecosystem associated plants include quaking aspen, Douglas fir, Rocky Mountain maple, common juniper, sedges, grouse whortle berry, buffalo berry, and heartleaf arnica. There are over 28 species of birds, including golden eagles, that nest in this ecosystem. There are over 24 species of mammals, ranging from black bear and elk to the vagrant shrew. Harsh weather conditions can and have created mudslides that require care and occasional detouring in crossing.


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