Location: 35 miles south of Montrose, 45 miles north of Durango and 70 mile northeast of Cortez, Colorado.
Distance: 8.0 - 12.7 miles (Loop)
This is my favorite hike in Telluride, crossing a high saddle separating two gorgeous alpine basins. Along the way the trail traverses meadows filled with thigh-high wildflowers and serves up spectacular views of the high peaks surrounding the Telluride valley and the San Miguel Mountains in the Lizard Head Wilderness.
Distance: 7.8 - 8.2 miles (Round Trip)
This wonderful hike visits two gorgeous lake basins, traverses wildflower-filled meadows and passes numerous waterfalls along the way. Dramatic peaks punctuate the ridge forming the backdrop for upper Ice Lake, nestled in an alpine wonderland that invites exploration.
Distance: 6.3 - 11.0 miles (Round Trip)
Popular hike to three scenic lakes nestled in beautiful glacial basins set amid rugged ridges and peaks. Beyond the lakes the trail climbs to a dramatic pass on a ridgeline south of Mt. Sneffels (14,150-ft).
Distance: 7.6 - 11.7 miles (Loop)
One of the top hikes in the Telluride area, this scenic loop traverses the panoramic spine of Blackface Mountain on its way to the base of Lizard Head Peak (13,113-ft.), an eroded 400-ft. tall spire shaped like the gaping maw of a lizard with its face to the sky.
Distance: 2.3 - 5.4 miles (Round Trip)
This terrific hike wanders through beautiful American Basin, visits scenic Sloan Lake and then ascends to the summit of Handies Peak (14,048-ft.) with spectacular panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains.
Distance: 7.0 - 8.9 miles (Round Trip)
This little known hike climbs steeply through forest and beautiful alpine meadows to a stunning glacial lake set amid a backdrop of rugged 13,000-ft. peaks. Panoramic views from nearby Columbine Pass encompassing Bridal Veil basin and the Sneffels Range.
Distance: 5.0 - 7.0 miles (Round Trip)
This scenic hike climbs to two pretty lakes in gorgeous Porphyry Basin. Along the way the trail travels through wildflower-filled meadows and passes waterfalls, interesting rock formations and mining ruins. The lovely alpine meadows of the upper basin offer several options for off-trail exploration.
Distance: 7.8 miles (Round Trip)
Stunning panoramic views are the rewards for hiking to the top Uncompahgre Peak (14,309-ft.), the sixth highest fourteener in Colorado and the highest point in the San Juan Mountains.
Distance: 5.8 - 9.0 miles (Round Trip)
This trail wanders through wildflower-filled meadows and then climbs a gorgeous alpine basin to West Fork Pass. From the pass the trail drops into scenic Wetterhorn Basin with view of Wetterhorn Peak (14,015-ft.).
Distance: 12.3 miles (Round Trip)
Dramatic views of Bear Creek Canyon, beautiful alpine basins, wildflowers and waterfalls are a few of the delights on this steep trail to visit the saddle (13,050-ft.) on the divide between Bear Creek and Bridal Veil basins. The hike includes an initial 2.0-mile segment of the popular Bear Creek Falls trail.
Distance: 4.5 - 5.9 miles (Round Trip)
This popular hike to a high alpine lake surround by 13,000-ft. peaks offers panoramic views of the Wilson Range and the high peaks in the Lizard Head Wilderness along the way.
Distance: 4.4 - 8.0 miles (Round Trip)
A dramatic trail carved into a steep cliff face high above Bear Creek is just one of the highlights of this hike up a beautiful canyon to two scenic mine sites.
Distance: 8.0 - 8.8 miles (Round Trip)
This scenic hike winding up Bridal Veil Basin past the historic Lewis Mill to Lewis Lake, nestled in a stark glacial basin at 12,700-ft. Along the way pass remnants of the area’s rich mining history, numerous waterfalls and hillsides filled with spectacular wildflowers displays.
Distance: 7.6 - 8.2 miles (Round Trip)
Beginning in dense woods the trail passes cascades and waterfalls along Cataract Creek, travels through beautiful alpine meadows and visits a scenic alpine lake on its way to the Continental Divide.
Distance: 6.6 - 7.8 miles (Round Trip)
A great hike to pretty lakes set amid scenic alpine meadows with wonderful view. An optional extension following a short section of the Continental Divide turns this out and back trail into a loop hike with extended views of the surrounding area.
Distance: 8.0 miles (Round Trip)
This well-engineered trail ascends 3,000-ft. to a knife-edge ridge with spectacular panoramic views.
Distance: 8.0 miles (Round Trip)
The top of Handies Peak offers breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains. This alternative route to the summit is longer and more strenuous but less traveled than the more popular trail to Handies Peak via American Basin.
Distance: 9.0 - 11.8 miles (Round Trip)
A great hike leads to the top of two of the easiest fourteeners to climb in Colorado, Redcloud (14,034 ft.) and Sunshine (14,001 ft.) peaks. From the summits a sea of summits and ridges extend in all directions, encompassing large swaths of the San Juan Mountains.
Distance: 14.0 miles (Round Trip)
Picturesque groves of mature aspen and beautiful views of the Lake Fork Valley and Uncompahgre Peak are a few of the visual delights on this scenic trail following the Devil's Creek drainage to Devil's Lake, lying beneath the western flanks of the Calf Creek Plateau.
Distance: 7.8 - 9.6 miles (Round Trip)
An interesting hike through forest and meadows to a scenic lake basin nestled beneath the eastern escarpment of the Calf Creek Plateau (12,644-ft.) in the Powderhorn Wilderness.
The Region, the Hikes & the Base Camps
This guide showcases the best day hikes in one of Colorado’s best day hiking areas, the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado around the towns of Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Lake City. The San Juan Mountains encompass more than 10,000 square-miles of some of the most spectacular peaks, ridges and glacial valleys in the state. Sixteen peaks tower above 14,000-ft. and literally hundreds of summits top 13,000-ft. Three national forests and seven wilderness areas protect huge swathes of this amazing landscape.
The trails in this guide, best hiked between mid-July and mid-September, take you above the timberline to beautiful mountain lakes nestled in dramatic cirques, to passes with see forever views and to glorious alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. Round trip hiking distances range from 6 and 12.5 miles with elevation gains of 1,000– to 3,500-ft. Many of the trails offer great intermediate turnaround points for those seeking shorter hikes. All are reached in less than an hour drive from four great base camps; Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Lake City.
Ouray, Telluride and Silverton are beautifully preserved Victorian era mining towns, each with its own distinct personality. The towns are linked by the stunning San Juan Skyway, a 233-mile scenic driving loop traversing the heart of the San Juan Mountains, which also passes through Durango, Cortez and numerous historic sites.
A little further afield is Lake City, a small, remote Victorian town linked with Ouray and Silverton by the Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway, a network of jeep roads traversing stunning scenery, visiting ghost towns and crossing passes up to 12,800-ft. Visitors driving regular passenger cars reach the idyllic little hamlet along Highway 149, aka the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, featuring some really beautiful scenery and a good dose of history.
Each town offers a range of accommodations, food and other essential services required by outdoor travelers.