Date hiked: 11/12/16
Mileage: 8.4 miles
Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 1 hiker and his dog.
The Corbett trail and the Dallas trail share their route the first .9 miles of the way, climbing an immediate series of switchbacks to and above the red sandstone cliffs bordering Highway 550’s northbound lane. Occasionally, the trees thin to spectacular glimpses across the valley of Gold Hill and the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine, and nearing the top, you can see clear to the Amphitheater, though Ouray itself remains elusive behind the hills.
At the split near Corbett Creek, continuing onto the loop counterclockwise, the Dallas trail heads northwest, first into dense stretches of pine, then into a mesmerizing patch of aspen trees, gaining a steep 1,200 feet along this expanse. Watch for the old mining ruins .8 miles in.
The two legs of the loop meet back up 1.6 miles beyond its first split. From here, the Corbett trail branches off to the left, steering you back towards the switchbacks. But the Dallas trail forges on another 1.4 miles through a mix of pine and aspen towards Moonshine Park.
From Moonshine Park, the Dallas Creek trail continues a final .6 miles to where it culminates at FR-852, passing by the Burn ski hut along the way.
Modeled after the Canadian system, the San Juan hut system started as a series of five ski huts in the Sneffels Range to connect Telluride, Ouray and Ridgway. Eventually, two more mountain biking routes were devised, one connecting Durango to Moab, UT, and the other connecting Telluride to Moab. The Burn hut was one of the original, and marks the furthest east in the entire system, and the furthest north in Colorado.
Returning along the Dallas trail, a half mile shortcut .7 miles from Moonshine Park will take you to the Corbett trail. This shortcut is signed, but a major bushwack full of downed trees and an itchy understory, even at the tail end of fall.
A seamless transition brings you back onto the main trail, and the remainder of the route descends Corbett Creek along the Corbett trail, saving the best views for last.
(From Ridgway): From the intersection of Highway 550 and Highway 62, head south on Highway 550 for 8.7 miles. Turn right onto the unmarked bridge, crossing the Uncompahgre River. Take another quick right to turn onto northbound CR-17. The trailhead is on the left after .3 miles. CR-17 is an easy 2WD dirt road and plowed in the wintertime.
11.4 miles, 19 minutes