Length: 13.1 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
From Alamosa, drive US 160 thirty-one miles West to Del Norte. Look for French Street on left just past Jack’s Market and take a left (South). Out of town this Road will become CR 13, San Francisco Creek Road. This road will become gravel and will dead end 10 miles South of Del Norte at the parking lot for 2 trails, the Middle Frisco and the West Frisco ATV trail.
There is no fee. Pets are allowed. There is plenty of space for vehicles/trucks with horse trailers.
9,460 feet at trailhead to 11,890 feet at Lower San Francisco Lake at tree line below Bennet Peak at 13,200 feet.
The trail crosses West San Francisco Creek and becomes a steady climb through pine and aspen forests, while also crossing several wildflower meadows. There will be a few steeper switchbacks in the dark trees with a feeling of an enchanted forest. The trail follows the creek for several miles before being on the side of the hill to the west away from the creek. Eventually the trail opens up to the high mountain ridges. Steeper and longer sets of switchbacks will finally end as will the trees and you will have earned your view of the lake, the high rocky peaks, and a bristlecone pine forest.
It is a dirt trail along the creek with occasional rocks, roots, and debris. Nothing difficult about the terrain.
Water readily available in creeks if you have a filter. NO Bathroom facilities.
Pleasures and Perils
This hike is extrememly peaceful. Its relatively easy for 2 miles, for a short out-and-back. There are wild strawberries growing along the trail in season. Large aspen groves flutter in cool mountain breezes. The creek runs cold and clear through the valley. In high winds, dead trees from beetle kill have fallen across trail. As always, keep an eye on thunderstorms. The trail is open all year but may be impassable due to snowpack. June through November is good season for all activities. Color season in September is especially magnificent.
At the first lake, look to the right. There is a grove of bristlecone pines which are some of the oldest living organisms in the world. Some are known to be 4,500 years old! This grove may be somewhere between 1,500 - 2,000 years old.
Mountain bikers can take West Frisco Creek Trail uphill and Middle Frisco Creek Trail down. There may be places to ‘portage’ around fallen trees. For backpackers, trails connect to other trails above tree line to other valleys if out several days.