Photo Essay: Wet Wading in the Colorado Backcountry

Written by: Jonathan Hill


The author shows off a fine small-creek brown trout from the South Fork of the Conejos River.
All photos courtesy Jonathan Hill

I am pretty sure that the urge to walk in water is in my blood. Growing up in the country of Western New York with a creek running through my backyard might also have had something to do with that. During the summer, we were always out in the woods and exploring the creek, with my mother making sure we were wearing our “creek shoes” so as to not ruin our newer shoes that were only for school. Some thirty years later, I’m still putting my creek shoes on and walking in the water. Only now I carry a stick with some line and a fly attached.


The high-alpine streams run through an amazing landscape.

For this particular trip, my creek shoes were packed and headed with me to the South San Juan Wilderness in southwestern Colorado. The SSJ encompasses more than 150,000 acres with 180 miles of hiking trails. Not to mention the thirty-two lakes and the creeks and streams that come out of them and make their way through and down the multiple peaks and valleys. Deciding where to spend five days within the boundaries of the wilderness is a little challenging—your best bet might be to throw a dart at the map because no matter where you decide to explore, you are sure to be amazed.

On this particular trip I enlisted the help of my friend Shawn, and we decided to explore the South Fork of the Conejos. The plan was to hike up the valley while taking time out to explore the streams and the lakes in the area.

When all was said and done, we hiked over 40 miles and explored three different sections of the river, did some small creek fishing up the Cañon Rincon trail, and tried our best to catch cutthroat trout in four different high alpine lakes.


The rewards of a long hike are solitude, beauty, and wild trout.

Unfortunately, the lake fishing was slightly harder than we are used to, but the stream fishing made up for it ten-fold! Wet-wading upstream through canyons and meadows and catching multiple types of trout at every stop made all the hiking and planning worth every step.

Jonathan Hill is a digital graphics manager who lives in Littleton,Colorado.


Views like this seem even better when you’ve worked to find them.
Photo courtesy Jonathan Hill

9 thoughts on “Photo Essay: Wet Wading in the Colorado Backcountry”

  1. Some of my best memories are small mountain trout streams even in NW Jersey, a 12″ brookie would be a trophy. We don’t have scenic views as Colorado, but thanks for the enjoyable pictures.

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  4. Looking at your trekking route on a map and would like to know the name of the lake in the pic you posted. Laguna Ruybal, Timber Lake, one of the Twin Lakes, or ?

    Thanks!
    .

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