Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chimney Rock National Monument, San Juan National Forest

Chimney Rock National Monument
San Juan National Forest

Date Hiked: Aug. 29, 2014

Distance: .3 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 100ft
Starting Elevation: 7,311ft
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Fee: Yes
Link to Google Earth File: kmz file

Chimney Rock NM Website

Directions:  From Durango or Pagosa Springs, take Hwy 160 to the exit for 151 South.  Once on 151 follow the signs to the Monument.  You have to pay to enter and you need to get your permit before you drive up the road to the top of the Monument.  There is no parking or stopping on the road from the bottom to the top.

Chimney Rock National Monument is NOT administered by the National Park Service, and it really shows.  Although this is a very important site for the Ancient Puebloan Culture, it is managed by the Forest Service, which means that it is managed by a private concessionaire.  Therefore, don't expect too much in way of hiking or interpretive facilities.  Also, you can only visit the main site on a guided tour, you can't even see the site from the top unless you pay for the tour.  When I visited I did not have time for the tour so I just did the short trail, took a few photos and begrudgingly went on my way.

That being said, this is an important site and a stunning landscape.

Engineer Basin, San Juan National Forest

Pass Creek Trail to Engineer Basin
San Juan National Forest

Date Hiked: Aug. 29, 2013

Distance: 3.5 miles (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,400ft
Elevation Min/Max: 10,579 to 11,971ft
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Trailhead Lat/Long:  37.699249º N; 107.778983º W
Fee: None
Link to Google Earth File: KMZ File

Pass Creek Trail to Engineer Basin Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  The Pass Creek Trail starts from a parking area on Coal Bank Pass, off of Hwy 550.  From Silverton, drive south on 550 past Molas Pass to Coal Bank Pass.  Turn right onto a short dirt load leading to the trailhead and parking area, the start of the trail is clearly marked.

This is a wonderful, short hike with all the grandeur you would expect from a hike the San Juans.  The hike starts by traversing the east side of the mountains through wildflowers and evergreen forest. Switchback up through the forest until you break out above treeline.  When you break out of the forest, you will be staring straight up at Engineer Mountain, an iconic sight for sure.  Once you arrive at the four way trail junction, the world is your oyster.  This basin deserves being explored in every direction but this description follows a steep trail up to the ridge leading up to Engineer Mountain.

Hang a left at the trail junction and head straight for Engineer.  You will shortly encounter another trail junction, you want to stay straight on this trail, going left will take you around to the other side of Engineer Mountain (and is a wonderful diversion, you get another point of view of Engineer Mountain).  Stay on the trail as far as you want to, eventually it summits, but you will know the viewpoint that I stopped at when you get there.  You'll be face to face with the mind-bending cliffs of Engineer Mountain, looking down on a massive rock glacier, and looking upon an expansive view across the basin to the San Juan's trademark red and white mountains, including Grizzly Peak and Rolling Mountain.  To the east, you have a distant view of the Grenadier and Needle Mountains.

Once you've had your fill (as if that is even possible...) head back the way you came.  I strongly suggest a trip to Ska Brewing Company in Durango for your post hike refreshments.  Gotta love the San Juans....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stormy Evening Drive, Curecanti National Recreation Area

A Stormy Summer's Evening in Curecanti
August 28th, 2013

Late August of 2013 I drove through Curecanti on my way to a hiking trip in the San Juans.  As I came down Monarch Pass into Gunnison it was clear that a crazy thunder and lightning storm was rolling west.  I spent about an hour driving through the park chasing the storm and it was amazing!  I was lucky to be riding the edge of the storm and got no rain, no close lightning nor thunder, but the light show in the distance was intense.  The colors and the light of the sky, with the sun about to set was perfect.  By the time I got to Montrose, it was pitch black and pouring, but this short trip through Curecanti will be forever etched into my memory.  I really like this series of photos...

Mt. Sneffels 14,150ft and Blue Lakes Pass

Mt. Sneffels 14,150ft and Blue Lakes Pass via Yankee Boy Basin
Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Uncompahgre National Forest

Date Hiked:  August 28, 2013

  • Distance: 6.6 mile (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 2,900 ft (4,000ft w/ Blue Lakes Pass)
  • Elevation Min/Max:11,241 to 14,150
  • Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
  • Fee: None
  • Link to Google Earth File: KMZ File

Directions:  Getting there is half the adventure.  Your driving destination is an outhouse in Yankee Boy Basin, this serves as the non-Jeep trailhead.  If you have high clearance 4 wheel drive you can try to make it to the upper trailhead, making for a trip of a few less miles.  I drive a 2010 Subaru Forester and it handled great on the road, but I thought it safer to walk from the outhouse.  It all depends on your comfort level.   From Ouray, head south out of town and turn right on Camp Bird Road.  There are various active mines on this road, so the road is fairly well maintained.  Stay right at the two turn offs for the mines.  After the 2nd mine, the road gets noticeably worse.  Stay with it until you get to the outhouse.  This road is absolutely beautiful and for the most part totally do-able, don't let it scare you off.

As usual, go to for a detailed description.
Link: page for Mt. Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin

From the outhouse travel up the dirt road, following well marked signs.  Soon you will leave the road on a single track to Wright's Lake.  At Wright's lake rejoin the road for a short time until another trail sign points you to the single track heading up to Blue Lakes Pass.

I can't even describe how incredible this basin is...  You need John Muir to describe it, not me.

After 2 miles or so you'll come to a trail junction, stay straight to go to Blue Lakes Pass, turn right for the Summit push.  Here is where you should evaluate the conditions, weather, your energy level, supplies, etc...  Blue Lakes Pass is a worthy destination and you should feel proud for getting there, but if the weather is good and you feel good, go for the summit.

The trail to the summit, is hard, but 150% worth it.  First you boulder hop, then you start ascending the slope.  This is a grind, 2 steps up, one step back on loose ground.  Keep your eye on the views and your feet, take it slow, and you'll make it.  Once up on the saddle you will feel like you've entered another world, Oz maybe...  The views of the surrounding peaks and spires is amazing.  Once you've rested, turn your attention to the Col.  This is a narrow, rocky column leading up to the summit, again take it slow and steady.  Near the top of the col, look to the left for the rock with the notch, climb through it and you're on the homestretch, scramble (carefully) up to the summit, you'll know the summit when you are there, there are no false summits here.  Take a few deep breaths, relax, and enjoy...this view is AMAZING.  You are looking down on Yankee Boy, down on the Telluride ski resort, down on everything.  360 degrees of pure Colorado amazement.  At some point drag yourself off the summit and retrace your steps being even more careful then you were on the way up.

Once back at the trail junction, and if you have the time and energy, go up to Blue Lakes Pass, it's fantastic!  Views that rival the summit and it's not that much more effort...  Then, take your burning quads into town and soak in the hot springs for awhile.  As far as dayhikes go, this is one of the best.