Colorado Trail: Little Molas Lake to Lime Creek

Distance: 7.4 - 10.1 miles (round trip)

San Juan National Forest, near Silverton in Southwest Colorado

Introduction

Colorful ridge at the head of North Lime Creek.

This relatively easy walk gives day hikers a scenic taste of the Colorado Trail, an epic 471-mile route stretching between Denver and Durango. The out-and-back hike follows a 5-mile segment of the trail, traversing pretty meadows with panoramic views high above the Lime Creek Drainage.

The hike is located just north of Molas Pass (10,910-ft.) in the area of the 1879 Lime Creek Burn that incinerated 26,000-acres of forest. The fire burned with such intensity that the forest has still not recovered.

Vast meadows, sprinkled with replanted lodgepole pines, now cover the area once blanketed with thick forest, offering far reaching vistas of the Grenadier Range to the east, the West Needle Mountains and Engineer Peak to the south and Twin Sisters to the west. West Turkshead Peak dominates the skyline to the north.

Trailhead to Lime Creek Drainage

From the Saddle you have a good view of Bear Mountain (12987-ft.)

From the trailhead at the western end of Little Molas Lake (see driving directions), follow the Colorado Trail as it heads northwest climbing limestone terraces on switchbacks with moderately easy grades. Along the way pass through pockets of trees and open meadows with views south to Engineer Peak (12,698-ft.) and North Twilight Peak (13,075-ft.).

After gaining 390-ft. in 1.3 miles the trail turns right (northeast) and joins a wide dirt track near the top of a ridge. The eroded track ascends to and traverses the ridge towards West Turkshead Peak (12,849-ft.). Here views open west to the Twin Sisters (13,432 and 13,374-ft.) and Jura Knob (12,592-ft.). Snowden Peak and the Grenadier Range beyond fill the skyline to the east.

Follow the track uphill for 0.7 miles. The trail narrows and turns left (northwest) as it nears West Turkshead Peak, two miles from the start of the hike.

The trail now traverses the east side of the North Lime Creek drainage. Toward the head of the drainage the path descends to and crosses the saddle between Bear Creek valley (to the north) and North Lime Creek valley (to the south) at 3.1 miles. Views at the saddle extend north to Bear Mountain (12,987-ft.) and Sultan Mountain (13,368-ft.).

From the saddle the trail heads west, ascending to the high point of the hike (11,650-ft.) at 3.6-miles and then loses 100-ft. over 0.4 miles as it crosses and curves around the ridge separating the North Lime Creek and Lime Creek drainages. Below the trail two tarns lie nestled on the ridge’s broad shoulder.

Continue walking until the trail starts to drop towards the head of Lime Creek on switchbacks. This is the 5 mile mark and a good place to turn around.

From this vantage point panoramic views encompass Twin Sisters, Jura Knob, Engineer Mountain, North Twilight Peak, the Snowden Mountains and the Grenadier Range. After taking a break and soaking in the scenery, retrace your steps enjoying the view all over again on the return leg.

Note: Mountain bikes are permitted on this trail.

Hike Facts

  • Distance: 7.4 - 10.1 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation: 10,895-ft. - 11,650-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 755-ft.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Basecamp(s): Silverton / Ouray
  • Region: Southwest Colorado

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile: Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to Lime Creek

 

Best Hiking in Southwest Colorado around Ouray, Telluride and Silverton

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Driving Directions

Driving directions from Ouray: Go 5.5 miles south of Silverton (27 miles south of Ouray, 44.5 miles north of Durango) on US 550 and turn west on Little Molas Lake Road. The Molas Lake Road is 0.4 miles north of Molas Pass. Follow the road for 0.8 miles to the parking area beyond the lake. The Colorado Trail trailhead is located at the northwest end of the parking area.

 

Trail Resources

Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Silverton / Ouray

Region Information:
Southwest Colorado

Other Hiking Regions in:
Colorado