Backpacking & Fishing Elk Creek – San Juan National Forest – Colorado

Elk Creek is one of our favorite places to backpack and fish. We have been fishing and backpacking here for several years and have never been disappointed in the fishing or outdoor experience. It is located in the San Juan National Forest in Southwest Colorado near Antonito.  The trail is moderate with a steep rocky incline paralleling Elk Creek.

For additional information about access and directions to Elk Creek CLICK HERE.

The first meadow is approximately 3 miles from the trailhead/Elk Creek Campground. It is about a 1-2 hr. hike. But keep going if you are looking to fish for big Browns, the best fishing is another 3 miles to the second and third meadows. We have never been to the fourth meadow, but we hear the fishing is good there too.

We usually arrive at the trailhead around 8-9 a.m. and begin the hike uphill to the first meadow, which sits at ~10,800 ft.  We have set up camp at the second meadow, but last year (2018) we decided to camp at the first meadow and hike to second and/or third meadow the following days. Plus, we wanted to hike to Duck Lake. The Duck Lake trailhead is close to first meadow.

When we arrive at the first meadow, we head down the hill on the horse trail and cross the creek to camp. We always put our backpack meals and snacks in our sleeping bag bags and hang them in the tree high enough for the cows and bears to not reach. There are usually cows in this meadow and they love food! They ate all my food one year right out of my bag because I did not hang it due to the fact I was excited to get to the creek and fish.

Rumor has it there are some BIG Brook Trout in Duck Lake. We started up the trail early in the morning with anticipation and excitement for big Brookies. We arrived at a lake on our right not sure if it was Duck Lake. There were a few fish moving around, but with further examination they were all suckers. We hiked up the hill a little more and saw a beautiful lake with ducks on it….DUCK LAKE!!

The lake was shallow and we did not see any fish surfacing or moving around. We hiked around the whole lake and threw in a line with a night crawler on the end. There are no fish in Duck Lake. What a disappointment, but the hike was beautiful and we can now say that Duck Lake does not have BIG Brookies.

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We have discovered that September is the best time of year to fish Elk Creek. We have gone different times of the year, but it is too hot or the water is too high some months and the fishing is not as good. We fish with fly rods and spinning rods. You can use artificial or bait in these waters. We typically use flies and night crawlers.

We highly recommend good hiking shoes for the trail and durable water shoes or waders for fishing and crossing the creeks. There are some boggy areas where you do not want to get your hiking shoes wet. We also recommend a good waterproof tent and rain jacket. We have been caught in the rain a few times.

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You can also take a hike to the waterfalls just above the first meadow. No fishing, but beautiful scenery.


Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

4 thoughts on “Backpacking & Fishing Elk Creek – San Juan National Forest – Colorado

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