Alpine Loop (12,800′), San Juan Range

Alpine Loop (12,800′), San Juan Range

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 Alpine Loop byway 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.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

Weather

GPS Route with Elevation

 

Video Tour

Trail Directions

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.

Trailhead Directions

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

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

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. 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.

The San Juan Range is home to world class outdoor recreation. California & Hurricane Pass, Stony Pass, and Mt Sneffels are a few examples of the natural beauty of the surrounding area.

Weather

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