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Women Itchy Wonderland
Pine River / Flint Creek Loop is a great multi-day hike following rivers and creeks. Gorgeous scenery, strenuous hike, abundant water. 115 downed trees.
I did this hike twice in 2020. 1st trip was in mid-July, second in late-September. The first trip had eleven hikers, and the second had five hikers. We broke it up slightly differently on the second time around. Below is the description from the second trip with references to changes/similarities in the first trip.
Day 0 - 3.8 mi +596’ -471
A "nero" day to allow for nearly a 10-hour drive from Phoenix, AZ (including gas/food stops) beginning at 5 am. The first 3 miles of the trail is adjacent to fenced Granite Peaks Ranch. No camping until you enter the Weimenuche Wilderness Area. We hiked about 3/4 of a mile into the wilderness area and set up camp after less than 2 hours of hiking. This is an easy up and down hike with only slightly more up than down. Great way to get a start on your trek after a long day of driving and allow you to acclimate to before really going up in the following days. 1st trip, we stayed at the developed Vallecito Campground approximately 20 minutes from the trailhead, so we didn't do a "nero."
Day 1 - 8.4 mi +1861' -659'
Our longest hiking day. Most of the elevation on this day comes in the last 1.5 miles. First waterfall view at about 4 miles. 1st trip, we did 6 miles each on days 1 and 2, so we camped the first night at the base of the lollypop and the second night at the same campsite near the confluence of Pine River and Flint Creek.
Day 2 - 5.8 mi +2041' -406'
Big elevation in a short distance. Many downed trees. Pope's Nose rock formation on the right after approximately 1.5 miles of hiking. Camped in a meadow near Flint Creek... lots of gopher/burrowing animal holes.
Day 3 - 3.5 mi +1405' -468'
Our shortest hiking day. Still quite a bit of elevation gain. A few of us got to the turnoff to the Continental Divide and decided to add it to our day after stashing our bear canisters and other heavier gear near the trail intersection. Round trip, this was a 3-mile detour. We camped near the shores of Rock Lake. Note, camping is not permitted near Flint Lakes.
Day 4 - 4.4 mi +800' -2423'
A tough day. Don't let the lack of elevation gain fool you. It is straight-up for about 500' at the very start of the day going from 12,000 to 12,500, the highest elevation on the hike. The trail is a bit difficult to find as it goes over large rocks, but there are plenty of cairns if you look for them. After summiting the pass (quite a bit of snow in July but very little in September), you think you've done the hard part, but the down is at least as hard as the up with some problematic footing and slippery areas. Be sure to stop north of Emerald Lake or plan on hiking to 1/4 mile south of the lake as there is no camping from 1/2 mile north to 1/4 mile south of the lake (the lake is nearly 2 miles long).
Day 5 - 9 mi +645' -2809'
A long but relatively easy day. Be sure to stop at the beach on Emerald Lake. The down is not nearly as hard as day 4. We camped at the same site as we did on Day 0.
Day 6 - mi +645' -2809'
An easy hike out so that we could get to Durango for an excellent burger for lunch.
The trail is rarely more than 100 yards from a water source. Sometimes that 100 yards has some big cliffs or other obstacles, but eventually, you'll get close to the water, so no need to carry much water with you... keep your filter accessible.
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