I have been meaning to hike Picket Wire Canyon near La Junta, CO for some time now, but I kept putting it off. I finally went down there to do a hike to the dinosaur tracks. The wait was worth it. The hike is a long one but the canyon is very green compared to the surrounding landscape. The wildflowers were also blooming in abundance due to some recent spring rains.
The trail starts at the Withers trailhead about 45 minutes south of La Junta. The trail quickly descends into the canyon from the parking lot and loses about 250 feet in elevation. Once in the main canyon, wildflowers dot the landscape including prickly primrose, sunflowers, and cholla cactus. An old ranch house is reached after a mile. The next landmark is a cemetery located 3.7 miles from the trailhead. In this stretch of trail, views open up of the canyon and the Purgatory River below. The dinosaur tracks are found another 1.5 miles down the trail. Several Brontosaurus tracks tracks can be seen here. An even bigger collection can be found just across the river, but due to high water, I decided not to wade it. The hike is 11.6 miles round trip. There is very little shade so bring plenty of water.
Picket Wire Canyon is located south of LaJunta. Take highway 109 from La Junta and turn onto the signed dirt road top the right after 13 miles. The road will turn at mile 8 toward the canyon. Follow this road for 6 miles. One final turn is required and this road goes 3 miles to the trailhead. The way is well-signed.