Alpine Loop (12,800′), San Juan Range
The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway is a rugged 4×4 road that winds through the spectacular scenery of the San Juan Mountains, connecting Lake City, Silverton, and Ouray. The loop traverses passes up to 12,800 feet while showcasing old mines, ghost towns, natural wonders, beautiful wildflowers, and abundant wildlife. Take a 10 minute detour while on the way to Cinnamon Pass to treat yourself to American Basin, one of the most beautiful places in Colorado.
Tackling the loop in its entirety is easily an all-day adventure. However, the main loop is only part of the experience; miles of designated side routes allow visitors to either take a short tour or extend their trip to multiple days. Hurricane (12,730′) and California Pass (12,960′) are two such examples that take you north from the Alpine Loop. For something closer to Lake City, tackle Wager Gulch to the Continental Divide.
- Trailhead: Lake City
- Round trip: 65 miles / 105 km (moderate difficulty)
- Elevation: 9,000′ – 12,800′ / 2,743 m – 3,902 m
- County: San Juan / Hinsdale
- National Forest: San Juan
- Wilderness: Uncompahgre
GPS Route with Elevation
Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado is the Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway. Located northeast of Silverton, Colorado in San Juan and Hinsdale Counties, the circular route makes its way from Lake City south along CO-149, to County Road 30, which turns west over Cinnamon Pass (12,640 feet) to Animas Forks, and then returns east over Engineer Pass (12,800) back to Lake City along County Road 20. The loop is best traveled in a clockwise direction.
From Lake City enter the Alpine Loop on either County Road 30 or County Road 20. From Silverton enter the Alpine Loop on County Road 2. From Ouray enter the Alpine Loop on County Road 18.