Vogel Canyon is a beautiful sandstone canyon spattered with pinon pine and shortgrass prairie. It was carved out by a tributary of the Purgatoire River and has three permanent springs located at the bottom of the canyon. This area offers some of the best hiking near La Junta with four short trails of easy to moderate difficulty. The sandstone walls of the canyon feature Native American rock art dating from the 1200s to the 1700s.
During the 1870s a spur of the Santa Fe Trail was developed by the Barlow and Sanderson Mail and Stage Line, and a section of this trail is featured on the Prairie Trail (see below).
A variety of wildlife inhabits this area including deer, antelope, coyote and various birds. The best time to view wildlife is early in the morning or just before sunset.
There are four trails in the Vogel Canyon area that suitable for hiking biking or horseback riding ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. The best time of the year to hike is during the warmer months of Spring, Summer and Fall, but you can easily do some hiking on a warm, non-snowy Winter day. During the warmer months you need to be careful of cactus, scorpions and rattlesnakes. You should take water with you as the water in the springs and streams in the canyon is not safe to drink. Stone markers and posts will help you find your way along the trails, especially the Canyon Trail. Please stay on the trails. Vandalism is a ongoing problem in this area, especially on the sandstone formations and the canyon walls. The Native American rock art found in this area is very fragile, and should not be touched. In the past, several vandals have felt the need to leave their own mark on the area, damaging and destroying some the the ancient art. Please take only pictures and leave only footprints! These sites are on public land and are protected under federal law.
The Overlook Trail is a one mile round trip. This trail is handicapped accessible and consists of a gravel walkway along the top of canyon. This trail offers splendid views of the canyon and culminates along the top of a small cliff.
The Canyon Trail is a 1 3/4 mile round trip of easy to moderate hiking and is recommended for the more active. You will hike down into the canyon from the picnic area, wandering through pinon pine and sandstone formations. Along the way, be on the lookout for the old ruins of the Westbrook settlement from the 1930s. At the bottom of the canyon, you will see spur trails running up near the canyon walls. Be sure to take one of these spur trails to view the Native American rock art. There are also a couple of springs at the bottom, but don't drink the water. Near the end of the trail you can either return on the same trail you came in on, or come back out on the Prairie, Mesa and Overlook trails.
The Mesa Trail spurs off of the Overlook trail and wanders through the pinon pine, eventually meeting up with the Prairie Trail. This 2 1/4 mile round trip is a moderate hike and takes you past a spring and some old ruins. Once you meet up with the Prairie Trail, you might consider wandering the shortgrass prairie to the east and catching the Canyon Trail to get back to your car. Be sure to spend some time viewing the Native American rock art along the cliffs on the eastern edge of the Canyon Trail.
The Prairie Trail is a 3 mile round trip and begins before the parking lot and picnic area. To access this trail, hike back on the road you came in on for a short distance and follow the Barlow and Sanderson Stage Road through the shortgrass prairie for the first part of the trail. The trail veers off of the stage road and continues into the canyon. This moderate hike passes ruins of a station for the Barlow and Sanderson Stage Line and will take you by ruins of old settlements, a rock corral and natural springs, culminating at the base of the canyon walls. While in this area, be sure to climb the little spur trails up to the canyon walls to view the Native American rock art and take in the spectacular views. Follow the canyon trail north to return to the parking lot and picnic area.