|Typically Open:||06/01 - 09/30|
|Highest Elevation:||12579 feet|
|Duration:||About 4 hours|
|Shape of Trail:||Straight Through|
|Best Direction to Travel:||West|
|Nearest Town:||Lake City|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Lake City|
|Official Road Name:||County Roads 30, 5 & 2|
|Management Agency:||Ouray Ranger District / Bureau Land Management / Hinsdale County|
This trail, just outside of Lake City, CO, is an over 25.5 mile-long trail that when connected with Engineer Pass - Alpine Loop Connector and Engineer Pass makes up the famous Alpine Loop. The two connected is a nearly 60 mile long trail that can make for a sunup to sun down day on the trails in the area. If you are running the Alpine Loop, then you will get onto the Engineer Pass part via the Engineer Pass - Alpine Loop Connector. You can also just connect to Silverton by taking this trail straight through and past the ghost town of Animas Forks. Along the way, you’ll run into ghost towns, mines and scenic overlooks that can make for some spectacular memories and images. Some of these ruins are over 100 years old and in amazing shape for their age. Tread lightly around these treasures. The overlooks are plentiful and while we’ve noted some of them here, you may find yourself stopping often to take pictures. These trails are what is left over of the road system needed for mining in the 1800’s during the gold and silver boom in the San Juan Mountains. The Bureau of Land Management now manages this trail from start to finish and maintains the surface and historical markers that you will see along the way. This trail is relatively easy and for everyone from the beginner to the experienced off-roader. It offers something for everyone along this route. The road is not a very rough surface in most places but it is a true off-road trail and will test your fortitude with shelf roads and some of the inclines. For Jeep owners, there’s a special note here. Jeep has designated some trails as Badge of Honor trails and this is one of the few in Colorado. Its fame means that Jeep will recognize if you ran it and provide you with a badge to put on your rig showing you completed the trail.
Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 12" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 12" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 24" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep.Read more about our rating system
This is the entrance to the Alpine Loop and Cinnamon Pass if coming from the east and starts on pavement. There a lot of private drives and no part between here and the next waypoint is open. Stay straight all the way through.
Stay straight (south) at this intersection. On the left (east) is CR 33 and on the right (west) is an unknown and likely private road.
Stay straight (southwest) here unless you’d like to use this chance to air down. This is an ATV staging area and some trails on both sides of the road nearby for them. Watch for ATV and foot traffic in the area.
Stay straight (southwest) here. On the right (west) is Williams Creek Campground and is a paid camping site. There are some campgrounds on the other side of the road that appear to be unauthorized locations.
Stay straight (south) here, there is private property on both sides of the trail for the next mile or so.
Stay right (northwest) away from CR 36. CR36 will take you to the Ghost town of Carson, Colorado. One of the more well preserved and less traveled old mining towns in the area.
Stay straight (west) for the trail. On the left (south) is a maintained pit bathroom and if you need to go, you should stop here. The trail is long and bumpy and your bladder will thank you. There is some trail access for ATV’s, foot and horse traffic to the side.
Stay to the right (west) on the trail. On the left (south) is the Mill Creek Campground. This is a paid site.
Stay right (northwest) and uphill at this split in the road. You will see plenty of signs and you want to go up past the seasonal gate. The road on the left (southwest) is Sherman Road (CR 35).
Stay to the right (northwest) at the Historical Sherman Townsite and Interpretive Site.
Stay straight (northwest) through the town here. There are pit toilets available and a parking lot for ATV riders along with some trail entrances. The Silver Creek, Grizzly Gulch Hiking trailheads are here and marked well just beyond the bathrooms.
Stay to the left (west) and on the well-traveled trail. This place is noted because it looks like a trail from the main road, but is actually a campsite.
There is a scenic stop here that includes signs that give information about the area while looking down into the valley behind you. It’s well worth the stop. The Copper Creek walking trail is 0.1 miles ahead as well.
Stay straight (southwest) here. This is another scenic stop that is marked by a sign from the BLM.
While this creek crossing is not that deep it is large and the spring run off can make it deeper and faster. Do not get out in the water here as the rocks are slick and if the water is fast can take you down.
Stay straight (southwest). This appears to be an unauthorized spur or private property that is not well marked and does not appear on maps.
Stay straight (southwest). This is an unnamed spur that does appear on maps but does not appear to have a designation.
Stay right (southwest) at this intersection with CR 12. You will start climbing here and there are a few switchbacks to negotiate but nothing very tight. About a half-mile after this waypoint there is a rock slab and some steps to be careful on. If you would like to head down CR 12 it will take you towards American Basin area.. It's wildflowers draw photographers from all over in July and August for this show of color above the timberline. You can get an idea of the visual beauty of this area here.
This is the summit of Cinnamon Pass. There is a sign here to indicate where you are and you can see well in both directions from this point. There is often a lot of vehicle traffic here in the morning and early afternoon. Watch for people, vehicles, and marmots! There are a lot of yellow-bellied marmots in the area and they don’t really know to stay away from vehicles and not run across the trail. Take it slow, do not feed the animals, and mind the wildlife in their fragile ecosystem.
Stay left (southeast) here to head down to Animas Forks and out towards Silverton. Turn right if you want to complete the Alpine Loop through via Engineer Pass - Alpine Loop Connector & Engineer Pass turn right (northwest).
Make a sharp right here (northwest). This is the intersection of CR 2 and an unnamed road down to Animas Forks.
The trail ends in the middle of Animas Forks just over the creek. If you travel into the town there are lots of plaques to give you history on the area. Respect the ruins as they are well preserved and should be kept that way for years to come. There is a parking area where you can congregate and do things like air up if you'd like before taking CR 9 south towards Silverton.
Starting Point: Lake City, CO
Dispersed camping is allowed, trailsoffroad did see a number of campsites occupied under the timberline since camping above it can be rough. Mind fire notices and a 14 day limit on camping in one spot if you decide to stay along trail. There are campgrounds near the trailhead including Wupperman Campground near Lake City and is a paid site. One of the largest and busiest campgrounds in the area is the first come, first serve Mill Creek Campground. You have to make reservations or get there early if you want to camp this near to the trail. The peak of the season means that the campsites fill up fast. There is lots of lodging available in both Lake City and Ouray, if you're lucky, you might be able to find a room in Silverton. In fact, there is a paid campground called Castle Lake Campgrounds and is in between waypoints 5 & 6 before you leave the pavement. This is a full-service campground with all services, even wifi.