The Handies Peak trail to Sloan Lake meanders through American Basin, one of the most scenic basins in the San Juan Mountains. 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.
Rating: Silverton to Stony Pass – Easy
Stony Pass to Kite Lake – Difficult
Road: County Road 3 (Forest Rd 520)
Round trip: 34 miles / 54 km to Kite Lake and back
Elevation: 10,000′ – 12,592′ / 3,048 m – 3,808 m
Near Kite Lake the road crosses the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
- Trailhead: Handies Peak Trail
- Round trip: 4.6 miles / 7.4 km
- Elevation: 11,600′-12,920′ (+1,320′) Sloan Lake / 3,536m-3,938m (+402m)
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.
4X4 recommended if coming over Cinnamon Pass