Colony Creek Trail

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 4.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,760’
Trailhead Elevation: 4,320’
Best Season: July, August and September, after
                        cows are gone from the canyon
Driving Access: Any vehicle, with care

Plus Points
• A moderate hike into a well-watered stream canyon with colorful rock formations
• Colony Creek is within a BLM Wilderness Study Area
• The perennial, alder-lined stream is a linear oasis for wildlife in a dry landscape
• Mineralized rocks outcrops on the hillsides in shades of red, green, white and blue
• A good trail on a gradual grade makes for easy hiking, despite the elevation gain
• Remains of an old mining prospect add an historical element to the area

Minus Points
• Cows are all gone by June 15, but their impacts persist, especially in lower canyon
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility throughout the summer, so caution is advised

Download (PDF, 546 KB): Photos of Colony Creek Trail
Download (PDF, 725 KB): Topo Map for Colony Creek Trail
Download (PDF, 636 KB): Road Map for Colony Creek Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Colony Creek Trail
From the small trailhead parking area, the hike follows a jeep road up the north side of the creek for about a half mile, where it ends in a small flat at a fence with a wire gate. Through this gate (leave it as you found it) a good single-track trail then climbs gradually along the north side of the creek all the way to the upper basin. In the narrow lower canyon, the trail is well-defined and stays close to the alder-lined stream, which still flows some water even into late summer. Wherever the canyon widens, the cows have made multiple tracks on the streamside flats and one has to choose the best route. Keep an eye out for sage grouse, quail and chukar around these dry flats.

After 1.7 miles of steady climbing, the grade becomes more gradual as one enters the upper basin. There are many seeps and springs here, with mud bogs, rose thickets and aspens, which the trail climbs the hillside to avoid. Look for mule deer browsing in these wet seeps. On the trail above these springs, there are great views of the multi-colored, mineralized rock formations that encircle the upper basin.

The route keeps climbing gradually, sometimes on parallel tracks, until about the 2.3 mile point, where one finds an old mining road descending into the canyon from the southeast. This road meets the stream at a wide flat, where there are stacked rock remains of a mining prospect on the north side of the creek. The streamside alder thickets below this flat make a good lunch and hike destination. Hikers with more ambition can follow the old mining road for another mile to the west, over a pass at the head of the canyon, to sweeping overviews of the Van Horn Basin.

Road to Trailhead
Drive about 15 miles south from Fields Station on the paved Fields-Denio highway and look for a dirt road on the west, right at a highway bend. This turnoff is about 2.4 miles south of the big highway curve around Red Point and is across the highway from the Colony Ranch.

If this dirt road is dry and hard, drive about 0.2 miles west to a small parking and turnaround area on the north bank of Colony Creek. This road has some deep ruts in it but, by straddling them with care, even a low-clearance passenger vehicle should be fine.

Camping Options
There are no developed campgrounds within 25 miles of the Pueblo Mountains. Both the Willow Creek Hot Springs Campground near the Trout Creek Mtns. and the Mann Lake Recreation Area east of Steens Mtn. are too distant to serve as a base for day hiking here.

The best option is dispersed camping along the access road to Little Cottonwood Creek, about 7.7 driving miles south of Fields Station. You'll need to provide your own water and sanitation, but there are 6-8 dispersed camp sites here spread out along the creek, all within a half mile of the highway. These camping sites have no tree cover or shade and the access road gets rougher the further one drives up the canyon — but any size camping setup, from small tents to large RVs, can find a spot here. The surrounding hills provide some protection from the winds and there is also good privacy from the highway.

Agency Contact: Burns BLM District, (541) 573-4411

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 1/17/13