San Miguel River Canyon Preserve

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Catch and release fishing, hiking, wildlife watching View All

Plan Your Visit

Open year-round, dawn to dusk. View All

Get Directions
Why You Should Visit    

More than 80 percent of Colorado's wildlife depends on rivers and riverside habitat. The San Miguel, one of the few remaining naturally functioning rivers of the West, supports some of the best riparian (streamside) habitat in the Upper Colorado Basin.

Natural flood cycles and a history of very limited development have kept many parts of this river in pristine condition, much as they would have appeared before the state was settled.

You can explore a dramatic, narrow canyon with red-rock sandstone walls looming as high as 2,000 feet. A discerning eye might see nesting American dippers (water ouzels) along the canyon walls. In its depths, a very rare riparian forest community combines narrowleaf cottonwood, Colorado blue spruce and thinleaf alder. 


Southwestern Colorado: In San Miguel County, near Telluride - near the upper end of the San Miguel River Canyon, about four miles downstream from Placerville.


279 acres, including two miles of the San Miguel River and adjacent riparian areas

What to Expect

No well-established trails, but foot traffic is allowed.

Consider rafting, canoeing or kayaking the river to get a different perspective. The preserve doesn't contain any put-ins or take-outs, but these can be found upstream and downstream.

Why The Conservancy Selected This Site

Because it supports one of the best known examples of the globally-rare narrowleaf cottonwood-Colorado blue spruce/thinleaf alder riparian plant community.

What The Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

With three preserves and cooperative projects with the Bureau of Land Management and other partners, The Conservancy has helped protect more than 30 miles of the San Miguel River. 

The Conservancy's first preserve along the San Miguel was established at Tabeguache in 1988. San Miguel Canyon and South Fork both were acquired (within several weeks of each other) in 1989.

When to Visit

Year-round, dawn to dusk

Explore some of the some of the best streamside habitat Colorado has to offer. Wade along the shores or canoe through on the waters of the San Miguel River. Catch and release fishing is allowed as long as you use artificial flies and lures.

The preserve has no well-established trails, but foot traffic is allowed. You might consider rafting, canoeing or kayaking the river to get a different perspective. There are access points before and after the preserve.

From Telluride:
    • Take Hwy 145 N to Placerville.
    • Turn Left on 145 towards Norwood. Continue for 4 miles until you see the Canyon Preserve sign on the Left. Park at any turn-out for the next two miles.
From Montrose:
    • Take Hwy 550 south to Ridgway. 
    • Turn right onto Hwy 62 west at the light.Continue for about 20 miles; pass the turnoff for Telluride
    • Look for mile marker 87, and then a small Canyon Preserve sign is on the left
    • Park anywhere along the preserve for the next two miles.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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