The southern part of Hinsdale County, accessible only from the Piedra Road (CR 600) that goes north from Pagosa Springs, is a great birding area with mountain meadows and ponderosa pine forests. You’ll find Western Bluebirds, Lewis’s Woodpeckers, and maybe even Grace’s Warblers, though they are rare here. Big game including deer and elk are common in the area. The Piedra Picnic Area just past the county line has mid-elevation riparian habitat with Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, and Yellow Warbler. A little farther north, a side road, FR 639, leads through ponderosa, oak and aspen habitat that can produce Virginia’s Warbler, Flammulated Owl, Band-tailed Pigeon, Evening Grosbeak and many other fine birds. If you follow the road to the top where it splits three ways and take the right fork (on foot if the road is too rutted for your car), you will get to an area that is good for Williamson’s Sapsucker. Flower-filled meadows near here can be filled with butterflies, including several species of fritillary. If you continue up the Piedra Road past the turnoff to Williams Creek Reservoir and across Weminuche Creek, you’ll enter a little-traveled area of mixed-conifer forest that transitions into spruce-fir. This is another great area to get high-elevation birds including Gray Jay, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Evening Grosbeak, Red Crossbill and Three-toed Woodpecker. The woods here are deep, and the road is remote–if you want to catch sight of a black bear or a porcupine crossing the road in front of you, this might be the place.
Habitat: Ponderosa Forest, Mixed-Conifer Forest, Streamside Willow, Aspen Grove, Spruce-Fir Forest
Directions: Two miles west of Pagosa Springs on US 160, head north on Archuleta CR 600 (Piedra Road), and stay on this road for 15.5 miles to the Hinsdale County line. This road then becomes Hinsdale CR 631 and then crosses the Upper Piedra River. Turn just past the river and go a half mile to the Piedra Picnic Area.
Delorme: 77 D7, 78 D1, 87 A7, 88 A1
Roads of Colorado: 132 A3-B4
Dates of Access: Open all year (mOpen all year roads closed in winter).
Ownership: US Forest Service
Restrictions: Not all campgrounds have water.
Parking: Roadside, except at trailheads or campgrounds
Lodging: Five USFS campgrounds in area.
Handicapped Access: Viewing from car; only Palisades Campground has accessible campsites.