Good views of the Blue River Canyon and the mountains that surround it combine with the moderate length of this trail to make it an excellent day hike into the remote eastern reaches of the Blue Primitive Area.
Like all Wilderness and Primitive Area trails, this trail is open to hiking and horseback riding, but all motorized and mechanized forms of travel are prohibited.
If you've got more time to spend, Hinkle Springs Trail (# 30) also provides access to a number of other trails in this little visited area. By combining these interesting and varied routes you can put together overnights, long backpacks, or through hikes to a shuttle placed at one of two or three other trailheads along the canyon floor or canyon rim.
Most people start a hike along this trail at its lower access point located along the Blue River. From this point the trail climbs, sometimes gradually, sometimes steeply, to the canyon's east rim. Initially, it follows the course of Cow Canyon, one of the major side canyons along this stretch of the Blue. A short distance into the hike the trail quits the canyon for the rocky high ground that separates Cow Creek and Steeple Creek. Here one has good views to the west, northwest, and southwest that include many of the major features of the Blue Range and Blue River Canyon. As you climb the switchbacks and look for blazes or cairns along hard to find stretches of the trail, you'll want to take plenty of time out to enjoy the scenery.
As with virtually all such trails in this area, Hinkle Springs Trail was built and is still used to move cattle, in this case between the canyon floor and upland pastures above the rim. It is named for Hinkle Springs, a dependable water source near its junction with the Bonanza Bill Trail (# 23) in ponderosa pine country at the canyon rim.
0.0 Trailhead at Blue River Road.
1.7 Good views to south.
2.5 Trail crosses intermittent stream.
3.6 Trail crosses streambed that becomes canyon on left.
4.3 Hinkle Spring; wood fence corral on right.
4.5 Junction with Bonanza Bill Trail (# 23).
At a Glance
May through October
No mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) permitted within the Primitive Area.
Drive 3.5 miles east of Alpine on US 180 to Forest Road 281 (Blue River Road). Turn south and follow this scenic back road 21.3 miles to the Hinkle Springs Trailhead on the left (east) side of the road.