Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

Posted by Adam Howell

Big Lick Trail, San Juan National Forest

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Big Lick Trail on the San Juan National Forest has some epic views when you get about half way down.

Big Lick Trail on the San Juan National Forest has some epic views.

A topographic map of Big Lick Trail that's delineated in red. Map courtesy of GIS Specialist Ben Bain.

A topographic map of Big Lick Trail that’s delineated in red. Map courtesy of GIS Specialist Ben Bain.

Big Lick Trail on the San Juan National Forest is a rarely traveled primitive single track that’s yearning for you to ride it.

Coming off the back side of Durango Mountain Resort and Elbert Creek, this trail runs mostly along a ridge line on the north side of the drainage that Big Lick Creek runs through.

If you are a hunter looking for a wild desolate place to track down some big game, this is the place for you.

If you are a mountain biker looking for a gravity-fed single track that allows you to keep your momentum with consistency, then Big Lick could disappoint you.

A Google Earth map of Big Lick Trail. Big Lick is delineated in red, and it meets up with Hermosa Creek (blue) at the bottom.

A Google Earth map of Big Lick Trail. Big Lick is delineated in red, and it meets up with Hermosa Creek (blue) at the bottom.

What’s enjoyable about Big Lick are the sections where you are hauling ass down some short section of single track, root gardens or around some natural berms created by water erosion.

Big Lick has a mellow traverse at the middle third section of the ridge line that runs across a sparsely forested hillside on a south aspect where you have great views of most of the drainage, as well as the other side of Hermosa Creek up in to the La Plata mountains.

Most of the trees that had fallen across the trail had been cleared off by someone before we rode it.

What sucks about Big Lick Trail? Keep reading to find out.

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Cranking to the top of Big Lick Trail.

Looking for a trail with flow and the ability to let you keep your momentum to the bottom? This is not the trail for you.

Due to the tendency of the terrain to make you ride back up to the top of three knobby hills along the way down the ridge, you can’t really keep your speed for very long on Big Lick.

A plethora of soil that’s been churned by horse and cattle hooves on Big Lick Trail also tends to scrub the speed that you could otherwise be using to have some fun. The trail is named after a big salt lick, after all.

The top of Big Lick Trail

The top of Big Lick Trail

Other speed-scrubbing barriers on this trail also includes short knee-high flora growing over the trail that bites at your shins, as well as sparse patches of taller scrub oak that bash your knuckles against the handle bars.

Have you ever encountered switchbacks that were so sharp in their angle and pitch that you HAD to put a foot down to stay on the trail? Big Lick has a challenge for you.

Big Lick Trail is about a 14 mile shuttle ride from behind DMR to the Hermosa Creek trail head at Hermosa Park.

Sanctioned, permitted structures at a camp above Elbert Creek. When will sanctioned permitted freeride structures for mountain bikes not be discriminated against?

A camp with structures above Elbert Creek.

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Tree graffiti on Big Lick.

Tree graffiti on Big Lick.

A view of La Plata mountains from Big Lick Trail.

A view of La Plata mountains from Big Lick Trail.

The ridge line on Big Lick Trail.

The ridge line on Big Lick Trail.

Big Lick Trail pops out on to Hermosa Creek Trail at a Bridge across from Big Bend Creek/Trail.

Big Lick Trail pops out on to Hermosa Creek Trail at a Bridge across from Big Bend Creek/Trail.

A log jam along Hermosa Creek Trail.

A log jam along Hermosa Creek Trail.

Hermosa Creek Trail on the way back from Big Lick Trail.

Hermosa Creek Trail on the way back from Big Lick Trail.

A view from our camp site near Hermosa Park.

A view from our camp site near Hermosa Park.