Upper and Lower Rim Loop (Gate 5)

  • Rating: Medium

  • Distance: 8.5-mile figure 8

  • Elevation

    • Trailhead: 7,580 feet

    • Max: 7700 feet

    • Min: 7450 feet

    • Gain: 570 feet

  • Trailhead Directions: Upper Rim Trail (#312), 6.4 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs)

  • Trail Map

  • Road Status: North Pagosa Blvd - open year-round

  • Notes: Bike, hike, or trail run.  Great views/picnic spots along the canyon rims.

Powerline Meadow

Powerline Meadow

Boulder Trail

Boulder Trail

glacier lily

glacier lily

Eastern Range

Eastern Range

oak brush hill

oak brush hill

Gate 5: Martinez Creek

Gate 5: Martinez Creek

glacier lily

glacier lily

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Upper Rim Trail

Located 6.4 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, Upper Rim Trail begins at Gate 5, which is one of the most popular routes in the area because it's short, accessible, and offers great views of Martinez Canyon.  The Lower Rim trail is even more scenic and you can connect the 2 loops in an 8.5-mile figure 8 pattern.  I like doing the Upper Rim clockwise and the Lower Rim counterclockwise to take advantage of the views. 

If you do the Upper Rim trail clockwise, you'll spend the first 1.5 miles paralleling the scenic, rocky edge of the canyon rim, with glimpses of the cottonwood-lined creek 100 feet below.  This section of trail is mostly downhill and is covered with blocky sandstone chunks, which offer many ankle-twisting opportunities.  The trail turns northwest and follows the rim of a tributary canyon, climbing to a trail junction at mile 2.4. 

 

Take a left at the trail junction onto Creek Trail and descend into a shallow canyon.  At the next trail junction near the creekbed, continue straight on Creek Trail, which parallels the cottonwood-lined streambed.  At mile 3, take a left at the "T" onto Catamount, cross the streambed, and the climb out of the canyon.  Continue straight into a green meadow (pass by the Round Park Trail junction) and climb to the top of a ridge, and then descend into the Powerline Meadow.  Continue straight and pass by the Boulder Trail junction and cross the meadow to a "T" with the Powerline Trail (mile 3.8).  Take a right on Powerline Trail and climb 0.4 miles to the junction with the Lower Rim Trail (don't cross the cattle guard).  Take a left on Lower Rim Trail and descend gradually for almost a mile, at which point you'll reach the canyon rim. 

Enjoy great views of the Eastern Range and then the Northern Range as you parallel the edge of the canyon rim for another mile (this is my favorite section of the route).  At mile 6, you'll reach the Powerline Meadow again, and take a right at the "T" onto the Powerline Trail (Lower Rim and Powerline merge briefly).  After about 100 feet, take a left onto Lower Rim and cross the lower section of the Powerline Meadow (don't follow Powerline Trail, which drops into Martinez Canyon). At mile 6.6, you'll cross the streambed and reach the central point of the figure 8.  Take a right at the trail junction onto the Creek Trail and climb out of the shallow canyon and veer left at the trail sign to finish the rest of the Upper Rim Trail.  At mile 8, take a right at the junction with Newt Jack Trail and descend back to the trailhead to complete the 8.5-mile figure 8.  

 
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