Mt Sneffels is the second highest summit in the San Juan mountains and known as the “Queen of the San Juans”. Mt Sneffels is situated in the Mt Sneffels Wilderness of the Uncompahgre National Forest. There are only 15 miles of constructed trails in the 16,587 acre wilderness, making it truly wild.
Starting at the upper trailhead involves a rough road accessible with a 4WD vehicle. The lower trailhead is more accessible to 2WD vehicles, 1.25 miles below the upper trailhead.
- Trailhead: Yankee Boy Basin upper trailhead
- Round trip: 2.5 miles / 4km
- Elevation: 12,460′ – 14,150′ +1,690′ / 3,797m – 4,310m +513m
The route description follows the standard route via Lavender Couloir.
From the Yankee Boy upper trailhead follow the trail until you reach the Blue Lakes Trail junction. Head right at the junction, hiking up a low-grade rocky trail before turning right up a steep gully. Continue for around 500 ft vertical gain up the loose dirt/gravel on unclear trail. Despite its grade, there are no switchbacks here, so this bit is brutal.
Reach a saddle at 13,500 ft, and turn left up Lavender Couloir. This gully is of similar grade but composed primarily if larger talus blocks. It funnels hikers up to just below 14,000 ft. This part of the mountain is fairly shaded, so the top if often full of snow into July. As the gully narrows and becomes cliffed out near the top, angle to the left, and pass through a V-notch (the most difficult part). Continue along a vague trail, angling up and to the right. The summit is only about 100 ft up and is clear from this point. Hike up along some solid rock to reach the summit.
- I had hoped the clouds would at least have breaks in them, but it was completely socked in on the day of the hike.
- The Yankee Boy upper trailhead requires 4×4 when open to vehicles
- Mount Sneffels was named after the volcano Snæfell, which is located on the tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland. That mountain and its glacier, Snæfellsjökull, which caps the crater like a convex lens, were featured in the Jules Verne novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. An area on the western flank of Mount Sneffels gives the appearance of this volcanic crater.
The GPX track is longer because of a road closure below the upper trailhead while also taking a different ridge down.