Vallecito Creek

"The best mile of creek boating in Colorado!"

Entrance Falls
Entrance Falls. Photo by Steve Scearce

First run by this author, Vallecito has been described as, "The best mile of boating in Colorado", it is crystal clear water flowing through an incredible granite gorge, with some of the highest quality drops to be found. And the 1.5 mile, semi-arduous hike in, keeps out the riff-raff. With that said, be prepared with spare paddle, first aid, and warm clothing, because I have witnessed many "quick trips" that have turned to "epic journeys" on this run. Superboof is the first rapid before the gorge. This one is easy to scout as you walk past it to the put-in.

Enjoy your 200 yard warm-up because it ends in the 18 foot Entrance Falls. A scout is possible but requires a micro-eddy snag along the river left bank and a wade through the water above the falls. The pool landing is clean, but beware of going deep and ending up in the cave behind the falls river left side.

Trash can is just below the falls pool and you will understand the name when you see it. You may want to portage, but you don't have that option. Scout from the in the water boulder on river right in the falls' pool. Be prepared to angle left and stay off the right hand wall at the bottom of Trash Can (the part you can't see when scouting).

Bottom of Trash Can
Jared Leon at the bottom of Trash Can

Immediately following is Pick-Up-Sticks. Boat scout river right and pick the best channel based on wood obstructions. Generally right down the middle is the best and most fun line. The next several hundred yards is splashy class III/IV that will occasionally put your heart in your throat if you don't know that it 'aint so bad.

Fuzzy Bunny!
Drew Fischer sending Fuzzy Bunny

The next major drop is Fuzzy Little Bunny. You can scout this one by landing on river left and climbing out on the big boulders to view your line. Don't boof too hard here- the drop will do the work for you. If you want to run this one again, snag the left eddy and climb up the rocks to do it again!

Below Fuzzy
Action below Fuzzy

Next comes the longest "hard" section of the run- Boofaunt followed by Paddle Bitch. At low flows watch the rocks between Boofaunt and Paddle Bitch.

Scout what you can from river left. Paddle Bitch does not look threatening, but watch for a lateral hole that feeds you into a small undercut rock. I've seen US Kayak Team members swim here!

Paddle Bitch!
Looking upstream at the top of Paddle Bitch.
The background shows the bottom of Boofaunt.

No Way Out Gorge is the last threat of the day. Figure it out! My first descent group did by going one drop too far and realizing that we were committed to a section that we were unable to rappel scout in the previous days of recon. It goes- take my word. Finish Line is a fun boof following No Way Out, and from there it is technical Class III to the take-out where your car awaits.

No Way Out
No Way Out, paddler Warren Starrett.

Directions: From Durango go East on Florida Rd. (C.R. 240) turn left at C.R. 501 heading north to C.R. 500. Go to Forest Service campground at the end of the road. The trailhead is at the north end of the campground and the parking is at the south end. It is possible to drop your gear before heading back to park.


  • Vallecito Near Bayfield
  • A visual gauge can be found just upstream from the campground. Hike the trail until the first footbridge. Follow the less traveled left trail from there, working your way to the creek. Look for a cable crossing the river and a small rubble dam. The gauge is there on the river right bank. 1.5 feet is very bony; 1.9 to 2.3 is optimal; 2.3 to 2.5 is V+; 2.8 is the highest known run (and it was fast, fun and scary!)