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
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....