Cave Basin (530)

Area Status: Open

Cave Basin Trail starts off wide and well defined but soon disappears, and the majority of the hike is bushwhacking. The trail is distinctive from a distance, but once you are on the trail it is hard to follow, due to the gray limestone that forms benches. Use your map and compass skills to progress across gray limestone benches, past meadows and sinkholes.There are no trees on the trail, but meadows and sinkholes that fill with water, due to the caving in of the limestone.

The view from the end of the trail at the overlook looks down onto Dollar Lake, and far below to Emerald Lake at 10,000' elevation.The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and in August. This area offers excellent views and photographic possibilities. As with all high-altitude areas, storms can move in rapidly, bringing severe wind, lightning, rain, snow, or hail any time of the year. Know before you go and plan accordingly.

  • Distance (one-way): 4.5 miles
  • Minimum elevation: 10,800 feet
  • Maximum elevation: 12,360 feet

At a Glance

Best Season: Summer
Restrictions: This trail is located in the Weminuche Wilderness. Please review the Weminuche Wilderness Regulations for full list of regulations and restrictions. Regulations include:
  • Group size is limited to 15 people.
  • Combination of people and stock = 25.
  • Dogs under control.
  • No unattended campfires.
  • Camping is not allowed within 100 feet of any water source.
  • Outfitter-guides who receive any form of compensation must obtain a special-use permit to operate on public land.
  • Possession of motorized equipment and mechanized means of transport are not permitted.
  • Please check trailhead signs or Forest Service Offices for site-specific camping, campfire, and livestock regulations.
  • Do not fly drones over congressionally designated wilderness areas or primitive areas as many people seek these places for the opportunities for solitude and quiet that they provide.
  • Practice leave no trace ethics.
Closest Towns: Durango, CO and Bayfield, CO
Water: Purification is recommended
Restroom: None. Follow Leave No Trace principles.
Information Center: Columbine Ranger District

General Information


From Bayfield: Head north on County Road (CR) #501, also called the Vallecito Road. Take that road north 20 miles around Vallecito Lake. Turn left on Middle Mountain Road (FS #724). Take the road about 8 miles to the Cave Basin Trailhead.

From Durango: Head north on Florida Road (CR #240) for 14 miles. Continue on CR #240 for 2 miles past the turnoff for Lemon Reservoir. Turn north onto CR #501. Take that road north 10 miles around Vallecito Lake. Turn left on Middle Mountain Road (FS #724). Take the road roughly 8 miles to the Cave Basin Trailhead.


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
4.5 miles

  Elevation : 
10,800 - 12,360