Hermosa Creek Trail

Hermosa creek trail behind durango mountain resort and purgatory

Getting ready for the long day in Hermosa Creek

One of the reasons I was so amped about getting a mountain bike was the fishing opportunities it would open up. Last summer, my girlfriend and I joined a friend on a big day of mountain biking. Even though it was a tough twenty-three mile day, I took my fly rod anyway.

There is a trailhead at the northern terminus of The Hermosa Creek Trail outside of Durango, Colorado, where the river is not much more than a high meadow trickle filled with reintroduced greenback’s. At this point, the elevation is near 10,500 ft and the access is really good, so hitting the trail is a necessity to get away from other outdoorsmen and wannabe’s.

hermosa creek fly fishing trail head

The beginning of my journey into backcountry trout territory

The first eight or so miles of trail follow the river pretty closely, and anything after the first mile holds a decent amount of brook trout. After those first eight miles, the trail goes uphill and away from the river until it comes down after about six miles later, where you can take another side trail to access the water without going too far out of the way. From there, it is up hill to the southern terminus of the trail. There is a lot of up and down terrain, especially after the first six to eight miles from the northern trailhead. This trip ended up being mostly a biking trip, filled with your typical blood, sweat, dirt, and summertime heat. The best opportunity for fishing is really in the more mellow northern eight miles, so this summer I plan to bike in four or five and fish all day, then bike out to the same trailhead instead of doing a shuttle run and tackling twenty three miles of ass kicking rocky grades.

Hermosa creek trail north

Hermosa Creek Trail as it follows the creek just south of the northern trailhead, notice it looks like an ATV accessible trail, but it turns into singletrack pretty early on

The hardest sections of river to access intrigue me, I bet there are some amazing fish in there. Unfortunately for me, I like to draw the line somewhere between crazy and insane. The best way to access the river at the southbound thirteenth mile would be to hike along the streambank for five miles. You can bet on one mile an hour, and can’t count on a good campsite, so a bivy or hammock would be the best shelter, which you will need.

Once you get to the water, expect super spooky fish that will take any well presented stimulator or parachute adams. I have only caught brookies in the six to twelve inch range. Unless you are camping or planning a streamside lunch, don’t keep any. Also, if you are lucky enough to catch any greenbacks in this section, you cannot legally or morally keep these, in fact, you aren’t even supposed to take them out of the water for the quickest photo. For up to date regulations in this stream section (greenback restoration work is fairly continuous in the hermosa drainage) check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing brochure for special stream regulations.

Hermosa creek broot trout mountain biking backcountry

Hermosa Creek Brook Trout

I got my line wet on three different occasions on this biking trip along the Hermosa Creek trail. Each time catching a fish or two in each pool on dry flies. When I lived in North Carolina I dreamed of places like this, they are common here in Colorado but the lesser known areas require an amount of time and effort to find. The Hermosa creek area is pretty well know, but when you get five miles in, you can have a hayday of fun without seeing many, if any, other fisherman. The best times to fish are going to be after the spring runoff and outside of monsoon season. Because of the variation in timing with these events, it is best to watch the weather and call the local fly shops in the Durango, Colorado area. Late autumn can be amazing, but wear hunters orange. Be prepared for anything, and have enough with you so that an unexpected overnighter is just an uncomfortable situation and not a killer one, don’t be fooled by daytime temperatures in the lower nineties, this is high alpine desert and it gets cold at night all year long.

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