In July of 2022, we spent four days hiking the Pine River Trail in Colorado's Weminuche Wilderness with our five pack goats. We chose this trail because it would be the goats longest hike yet, and we wanted something relatively easy, with good access to graze and water for the critters. Since it was monsoon season, this trail had the added benefit of being lower elevation and therefore less chance of us getting caught out in the open if a bad thunderstorm were to suddenly hit. This trail had everything we were looking for plus amazing views, gorgeous campsites, and plenty of trailside snacks for people and goats alike!
The Pine River Trail starts near the Granite Peaks Ranch, and follows a right of way through the ranch property for the first 2.7 miles. After that, you enter forest service land for about a mile before reaching the wilderness boundary. There is no camping allowed until you are officially in wilderness, but once there gorgeous sites pop up along the river banks allowing weary hikers and goats to soak their feet in the cool clear water and take in the mountain views.
The trail was relatively busy for the first 6.5 miles, until we reached the junction with the lake creek trail that takes hikers up to Emerald Lake. There were a lot of people camped at the junction, and I'm sure much more near the lakes. It was good practice for us and the goats to pass other people, dogs, and horses along the trail. Nevertheless, we were happy to leave the crowds behind and head farther up the Pine River trail, where solitude was much easier to find. A few miles past the junction, we located our first campsite located on the opposite side of the river. It was a quiet, idyllic place with an all you could eat buffet of wild strawberries, huckleberries, and bolete mushrooms.
We spent three nights and four days total exploring the Pine River and some of its tributaries. Our paths took us past the Pope's Nose, which is the tallest granite cliff in Colorado, as well as past waterfalls, aspen forests, and to the top of granite knolls where the goats could frolic on the rocks and the humans could kick back and enjoy the view.
Hiking up Flint Creek towards the Pope's Nose. Does it look like a nose to you?
Hamish 'cheesing' it up for the camera
The goats did great carrying their packs, and really seemed to enjoy their time on the trail. The pine river trail was perfect for the goats who were still learning to negotiate obstacles while carrying a bulky load. The humans loved the routine of watching the goats graze in the meadows while the sun rose and set over the mountain peaks. Colorado's San Juan Mountains never disappoint, and we all can't wait for our next pack trip.