The Stage 3 fire and access restrictions to the San Juan National Forest have been rolled back to a Stage 2 condition which means access to the forest is once more open to the public. However, fire conditions still remain high and we are currently in the middle of a strong heat wave. Consult current regulations with the San Juan NF before planning any trips. Fines for violations are significant.
From the trailhead parking area, the trail (#534) heads NE on a switchback path of an old, highly rutted roadbed toward Endlich Mesa. We found a trail that ran somewhat parallel but which avoided the half dozen switchbacks by taking a more direct route upward. A steady but fairly gentle climb for a mile brings you to treeline. When we hiked this, the trail was covered with sheep prints and numerous smelly deposits. Once on the open ridge, there will be several miles (about 5) of open, tundra hiking with distant, spectacular vistas in most every direction except east. Take the opportunity at times to walk off the trail to the east and gaze down into the basins where we spotted elk on more than one occasion. The trail remains easy to walk and just as easy to follow, cresting out at about 12,200 ft.
After about 5 miles the trail crossed a small ridge and there was a fork to the left. Take this fork that heads down to City Reservoir #1 in the City of Durango watershed. Unlike the City of Boulder watershed in the Indian Peaks, you can legally enter here and even camp without threat of prosecution. The trail drops steeply down initially for a knee-bashing descent of 1,400 vertical feet to the reservoir. Remember that when you leave this area, you may have to pack back up this section of trail. You may observe some nice wildflowers along the way. The Trails Illustrated map shows the trail branching down near the reservoir. Either fork will get you there, but the right fork, may be a little shorter if the trail is still visible. Cross the dam at the south end and walk along the west shore toward the NE and the upper end of the reservoir. There is a nice campsite at that NE end on the edge of the trees with easy access to the lake. Streams are nearby for fresh water. The largest campsite can accommodate several tents easily, while nearby are several other smaller campsites. It took us about 4.5 hours to make this backpack in.