Picketwire Canyon

Picketwire Canyon is the drainage of the Purgatory River across the southeast corner of the Comanche Grasslands in southeast Colorado near La Junta. It is an area rich in history and geology featuring early Indian rock art, an historic cattle ranch, an old Spanish mission and the largest trackway of... Read More
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Highlights of Picketwire Canyon

Desert Category Icon Desert
Ghost Town Category Icon Ghost Town
Iconic Category Icon Iconic
Highest Elevation
4740 ft
Shape of Trail
Out & Back
Typically Open
05/01 - 09/30
Best Direction
N/A
Official Trail Name
2187
Nearest Town
La Junta
Nearest Services
La Junta
Management Agency
United States Forest Service
District
Comanche Ranger District

Overview

Picketwire Canyon is the drainage of the Purgatory River across the southeast corner of the Comanche Grasslands in southeast Colorado near La Junta. It is an area rich in history and geology featuring early Indian rock art, an historic cattle ranch, an old Spanish mission and the largest trackway of dinosaur footprints in North America. It is said that a group of Spanish treasure seekers followed the river into the area and were killed by Native Americans, dying without the benefit of clergy. Thus the Spanish came to call the river El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio or the River of the Lost Souls in Purgatory. When French trappers and traders entered the area they shortened the name to Purgatoire (pronounced Purr-ga-twa). When English-speaking settlers followed the Sante Fe Trail into the area they couldn’t pronounce the French correctly and corrupted it to Picketwire. Picketwire Canyon is only accessible by vehicle through a guided tour offered by the National Forest Service who administer the Grasslands. You must make reservations ahead of time for this tour. The only other access is by hiking, biking or horse-back along a long, difficult route through Withers Canyon.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

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Trail Guide Overview
7 Waypoints
23 Trail Photos
1 Trail Concerns
2 Community Reviews
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