American Basin to Sloan Lake (12,920′), San Juan Range

The Handies Peak trail to Sloan Lake meanders through American Basin, one of the most scenic basins in the San Juan Mountains. The destination, Sloan Lake, is a high alpine lake above treeline near the base of American Peak in the basin. The trail continues past the lake and up to Handies Peak, one of five l4,000′ peaks in the area.

Other destinations worth visiting while in the area along the Alpine Loop include Wager Gulch, California Pass, Hurricane Pass, Stony Pass, and Mt Sneffels in Yankee Boy basin.

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

The Handies Peak trail leaves the southeast end of the trailhead parking area and ascends the hillside on the left (east) side of the valley, heading south into the basin. At 3/4 miles the path crosses a stream and then continues the moderate ascent toward the head of the basin.

The path to the Lake turns left (southeast), leaving the valley floor and climbs 325-ft up a moderately steep hillside. At the top of hill the path descends into a shallow basin, crosses the outlet stream for Sloan Lake and then follows a gently ascending grade across rocky meadows. Eventually the path turns south, climbing steep switchbacks 200-ft up to a junction with the trail to Sloan Lake. At the junction a short spur trail drops south to the shore (12,930-ft.) while the trail to Handies Peak veers left. The trip to the lake is well worth your time. The aquamarine lake lies cradled in a rugged cirque, anchored to the southeast by American Peak (13,806-ft.). An imposing jagged ridge rises above the lake’s south shoreline.

Trailhead Directions