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Vallecito Lake - 13 Things to Know Before Visiting

Vallecito Lake, Colorado 81433, USA

Lake/ River/ Ponds

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About Vallecito Lake

Vallecito Lake is a gorgeous lake located in San Juan county. It's a great place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery. The lake is fed by the Vallecito River and is surrounded by mountains, forests, and meadows. There are plenty of activities to enjoy at Vallecito Lake, including fishing, swimming, hiking, and camping. The lake is also a popular destination for boating and kayaking.Whether you're looking for a place to enjoy some peace and quiet or an adventure-filled getaway.

Things to Do at Vallecito Lake

Vallecito Lake is a beautiful place to spend a day or two exploring. There are plenty of things to do in the area, including hiking, fishing, and picnicking. The lake itself is a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. For those looking for a little more adventure, there are several options for hiking and mountain biking in the surrounding area. And for those who really want to get away from it all, there are plenty of spots for camping and backpacking. No matter what your interests are, Vallecito Lake has something to offer everyone.

History of Vallecito Lake

Vallecito Lake is a picturesque body of water located in San Juan County, Colorado. The lake is situated in a beautiful mountain setting and is a popular spot for fishing, hiking, and camping. However, Vallecito Lake has a long and fascinating history that extends far beyond its current status as a recreational oasis.

The area around Vallecito Lake has been inhabited for centuries. The first known inhabitants were the Ute people, who utilized the valley as a hunting ground. The Ute people were eventually replaced by the Navajo, who also used the valley as a hunting ground. Around the turn of the 20th century, homesteaders began to move into the area and establish farms and ranches. One of these homesteaders was Charles Baker, who built a cabin near the present-day site of the lake. Baker christened his cabin "Vallecito," which means "little valley" in Spanish. The name "Vallecito Lake" eventually came to refer to the entire body of water.

In the early 1900s, Vallecito Lake was primarily used for irrigation purposes. However, this changed in 1915 when the Los Pinos Dam was built across the Pine River. The dam resulted in the creation of Vallecito Reservoir, which quickly became a popular spot for fishing and boating. Today, Vallecito Lake is one of Colorado's most beloved recreation areas. Thanks to its rich history and beautiful setting, it's easy to see why!

Best Time to Visit Vallecito Lake

The best time to visit Vallecito Lake is from June to September, when the weather is warm and dry. During this time of year, the lake is full of fish, and the hiking trails are open. If you're looking for a more active vacation, June to September is the best time to visit Vallecito Lake. 

Tips for Visiting Vallecito Lake

  1. Pack your swimsuit! Vallecito Lake is a great place to take a dip, paddle around in a canoe, or just relax on the shore.
  2. Don't forget your hiking gear. There are plenty of trails to explore in the area, and you'll want to be prepared for any terrain.
  3. Make sure to bring sunscreen and insect repellent - the sun can be strong at high altitudes, and mosquitoes can be a nuisance.
  4. Remember that cell phone service can be spotty in rural areas - it's always good to have a backup plan if you need to get in touch with someone.
  5. If you're camping overnight, make sure to bring enough firewood for your stay - there is no wood available for purchase at Vallecito Lake.
  6. Clean up after yourself - leave your campsite better than you found it! This includes disposing of trash properly and respecting signage aboutleave no trace principles .
  7.  Come prepared for inclement weather - even in summer, there can be afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains.
  8. Please respect private property - stick to public trails and campgrounds while you're exploring.

Interesting Facts and Trivias About Vallecito Lake

  1. Valdexito Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in Colorado and has a surface area of 3,000 acres.The average depth of the lake is 30 feet, but it can reach depths of up to 60 feet in some areas.
  2. In 1941, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a camp at Valdexito Lake to provide employment for young men during the Great Depression.
  3. Vallecito Reservoir, which supplies water to Durango, is located just upstream from Vallecito Lake.
  4. In addition to beavers, other wildlife that can be found near the lake include elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and coyotes.
  5.  The area around the lake was used as a filming location for several movies, including “The Revenant” and “The Hateful Eight”. 
  6. The climate in the area is temperate, with average summer temperatures in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit.

How Much Time Did Visitors Spend at Vallecito Lake

There's no set amount of time needed to explore Vallecito Lake - it all depends on your interests and how much you want to see. However, we recommend budgeting at least a full day to really appreciate all this beautiful area has to offer. 

How to Reach Vallecito Lake

The most direct route is from the town of Silverton, which is about 30 miles (48 km) away. From Silverton, take County Road 2 south for about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the turnoff for County Road 24. Follow County Road 24 for about 19 miles (31 km) to Forest Road 522. Turn onto Forest Road 522 and follow it for about 3 miles (4.8 km) to the lake. Another option is to take County Road 110 from Durango, which leads to Vallecito Reservoir. 

Entrance Fee of Vallecito Lake

While there is no entrance fee to explore the area, there are some costs associated with activities such as camping and fishing.

Opening Hours of Vallecito Lake

The lake is open year-round, and the surrounding and during the summer months, the campground is open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, with last call for overnight camping at 9:00 PM. In the winter, the hours are shortened to allow for snowplowing and other maintenance activities. The campground is typically open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. 

Attractions Near Vallecito Lake

Trinity Peaks
Trinity Peaks4.28km from Vallecito Lake

Trinity Peaks is located in the San Juan County. This area is well known for its rugged and scenic mountains, and Trinity Peaks is no exception. The peaks themselves are made up of three distinct summits: South Peak, North Peak, and West Peak. Together, they form a challenging and picturesque hike that draws visitors from all over the world. However, it should be noted that Trinity Peaks is not for the faint of heart; the hike is strenuous and the terrain is often slippery and unstable.

Jagged Mountain
Jagged Mountain7.22km from Vallecito Lake

Jagged Mountain is one of the most popular destinations in San Juan County. The mountain is home to a variety of hiking trails, as well as a number of scenic overlooks. The summit of Jagged Mountain offers views of the nearby 14ers, including Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. In addition, the mountain is home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep and eagles. Jagged Mountain is accessible via a number of different trailheads, and there are also a number of camping options in the area.

Highland Mary Lakes
Highland Mary Lakes7.77km from Vallecito Lake

The Highland Mary Lakes are a group of three high-altitude lakes located in San Juan County. The lakes are situated at an elevation of 12,600 feet, and they are surrounded by mountain peaks that rise to even greater heights. The lakes are fed by snowmelt and runoff from the surrounding mountains, and they are home to a variety of fish, including cutthroat trout. It is a popular destination for hikers, fishermen, and nature lovers, and they offer spectacular views of the surrounding Rockies.

Sunlight Peak
Sunlight Peak9.5km from Vallecito Lake

Sunlight Peak, the 39th highest, is one of three 14ers located deep in the rugged Needle Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. The standard route up Sunlight Peak is from the south, known as the "Red Couloir". It is a non-technical scramble, but achieving the top of the summit block does require an exposed rock climbing move.

Windom Peak
Windom Peak9.86km from Vallecito Lake

Windom Peak is the 34th highest peak in Colorado and is part of a group of three fourteeners- Sunlight, Windom, and Eolus. The mountain was named in honor of Minnesota senator William Windom. It have a strong wilderness character; however they can be popular in summer.

Jupiter Mountain
Jupiter Mountain10.73km from Vallecito Lake

Jupiter Mountain is Colorado's 92nd highest peak. Jupiter sits at the head of Needle Creek and shares the remote Chicago Basin with four fourteeners--South Mount Eolus, North Mount Eolus, Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak--so it is an often overlooked mountain by those who venture into Chicago Basin. Jupiter Mountain also boasts some fun snow climbing on the mountain's north side. As these routes are snow climbs, they are best done in winter or spring when there's good snowpack.

Where is Vallecito Lake

Discover More Attractions in San Juan County, Where Vallecito Lake Is Located

San Juan County
San Juan County
29 attractions

San Juan County, located in the southwest corner of Colorado, is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. The county is home to several popular National Parks and Monuments, including Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Hovenweep National Monument. In addition, the San Juan Mountains offer ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. Thanks to its abundant natural beauty, San Juan County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colorado. In fact, the county w