Engineer Pass Road

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4.8/5 (124 reviews)
Lake City, Colorado (Lake County)
Last Updated: 12/13/2023
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Trail Information

Highlights

Altitude Category Icon Altitude
Forest Category Icon Forest
Ghost Town Category Icon Ghost Town
Iconic Category Icon Iconic
Mine Category Icon Mine
Overland Category Icon Overland
Scenic Category Icon Scenic

Engineer Pass is well known as part of the iconic Alpine Loop trail network in the high San Juan Mountains. Many roads criss-crossing over the peaks were established during the late 1800s to support mining operations seeking gold, silver, lead, and other ore deposits. These trails provided lifelines to transport ore, people, and supplies between the mines and the nearby towns of Silverton, Ouray, and Lake City.

Those looking to have a quintessential Colorado weekend adventure can complete the Alpine Loop, leaving Lake City via Cinnamon Pass and connecting to Engineer Pass Road in the area of the Animas Forks ghost town. Easily extend the adventure by connecting to iconic trails like California Pass, Picayne, Placer Gulch, and more. Regardless of where you start Engineer Pass, opportunities are plentiful to test your skills, explore the backcountry of Colorado, and even touch the skies at mountain summits along the way.

The San Juan Mountain Range is full of mining history and ruins. Some are marked clearly, while others are not. The BLM has worked with local historical societies to restore structures and make them safe to enter. These are typically well-marked with informational signage and placards. Many mining sites have been left to the elements and should be appreciated from afar as they are no longer structurally sound.

If you are looking for epic scenery, you'll find spots all along the trail worth stopping for. Odem Point and the official summit have breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, including the Uncompahgre, Coxcomb, Wetterhorn, and Wildhorse mountain peaks. The view is so expansive at Oh (Odem) Point that on a very clear day, you might see all the way to Utah if you turn your eyes to the west. Whitmore Falls Scenic Overlook at Waypoint 14 offers a beautiful waterfall after a short hike down a well-marked footpath.

This trail is easily traversable by a stock 4WD and can be enjoyed by all drivers, from the beginner to the experienced, with something for the whole family. While this trail isn't rough, it is a proper offroad trail and will test your fortitude with high-altitude shelf roads subject to quick weather changes.

Jeep® Owners: Engineer Pass Road is a Badge of Honor trail. Visit the Jeep® Badge of Honor mobile app to check in on the trail and earn your official badge.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

This nearly 30-mile trail begins in the heart of the San Juan Mountains mining country and follows Henson Creek to Lake City, CO. While the trail has no major obstacles, it is long with rough spots worth airing down for. The high elevation can result in sudden weather shifts.

Engineer Pass travels well above the timberline into areas of fragile alpine tundra. It is essential that travelers stay on the trail and do not deviate from it. The damage one vehicle can do by going off-trail can take years for the area to recover. As an iconic San Juan trail, this road is heavily traveled and popular for experienced drivers and people out for the weekend with rented Jeeps and OHVs.

To complete the traditional Alpine Loop route, continue south of Lake City and follow Cinnamon Pass west towards Silverton.

Trail Reviews

4.8/5 (125)
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Official Crew
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150500
Impassable
Visited: 12/01/2023

Snow has closed the road to wheeled vehicles for the winter season.
This trail guide's difficulty was changed on 10/15/2023
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Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/17/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We ran this trail from the trailhead at US550 to Waypoint 6 to catch the start of Poughkeepsie Gulch. I think that part of the trail is just a bit more technical than Imogene Pass, so I would agree with the rating of 4. There are some rocks to climb over and you're going uphill most of the way. It's technical enough to keep you focused, but there aren't any real insurmountable obstacles., especially if you have some lift and bigger tires. We started from the Ouray side at 9am and did not encounter any traffic coming our direction all the way to Waypoint 6 even though it was a Sunday. This was a real fun trail, especially for those who want something a bit tougher than most of the other trails in the area. I would recommend going into 4Lo as soon as you leave the trailhead at Ouray, as the rocks start pretty early on the trail. This was a great loop when run with Poughkeepsie and then the other passes either towards Animas Forks (the ghost town is interesting) or out from Corkscrew.
Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/12/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Did Imogene (Tell. -> Ouray) in the morning and Engineer in the afternoon. Based on reports on here I skipped 1-11 in my stock Xterra Pro-4X, had I had sliders and more time I probably would of tried it. Went through Silverton and up to 11 (Animas Forks mining town is worth stopping at!). 11 onward is similar to Imogene and while I would say overall Imogene is about the same difficulty, I would say Engineer had is moments where it was more difficult than Imogene Pass. Imogene has more obstacles overall, Engineer is more just a very bumpy rocky road that has a few moments of slight difficulty. Doesn't help it was pouring and then snowing by the top. Still had no issue in my Xterra, just important to have correct wheel placement on some of the rocky switchbacks if you don't want to scrape or slide.
Trail Review: Engineer Pass Road - Sean Allen
Trail Review: Engineer Pass Road - Sean Allen
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Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/06/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Came from lake city and took the trail all the way to ouray. In a stock 2017 jeep Cherokee trailhawk. It made it, but would not advise taking that last section in one. Only reason we made it is because we were going downhill lol. Go out through Silverton if you do not have a vehicle built for trailing.

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