Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Alpine Loop Jeep Trails in the San Juan Mountains

The Alpine Loop is a 65 mile back country by-way and we completed the loop on June 30, 2008, from Animas Forks. These roads were first used by miners carrying ore to Silverton, Ouray and Lake City in the early 1900s. We started Cinnamon Pass from Animas Forks since it looked like there was quite a bit of traffic descending from Engineer Pass. Cinnamon Pass is the easiest of the two, but still requires a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. My only complaint of the day was the overcast skies. It never did rain on us, but the clouds surely did affect the views (and my photos!).

This is the steep beginning to Cinnamon Pass just above Animas Forks.
Nice trail through the snow.
I shouldn't complain about the clouds. The mountains are still beautiful.

Cinnamon Pass summit, 12,640 feet. I'm not sure what Maralee is doing in this picture. She must have been cold.

On our way down from the summit. We followed this other Jeep Rubicon for the entire pass.

San Cristobal Lake near Lake City.

Lake City, Colorado. If we drive on highways to get here, it would take us about 3 1/2 hours. It probably took us that long by the Alpine Loop, but well worth it. When you look at Telluride and Lake City on a map, they are so close together, just lots of mountains to get around. We had an early dinner in Lake City at Southern Vittles and either I was starving or that was the BEST chicken fried steak I have ever had.
After dinner, we began our second half of the Alpine Loop to Engineer Pass. Before officially starting the pass, we stopped at the Hard Tack Mine along the county road. A really nice couple run the mine and the man offerred to give us a tour even though it was 5 PM and time for them to close. We told them we needed to get going but told them we would be back for the tour later this summer.

Melting snow near the beginning of Engineer Pass.

Rough and wet trail.

Another view of the wet trail, pretty moderate on this side of the pass, but not too bad.
I photoshopped this picture to "warmify" it and I thought it looked pretty cool. The tallest peaks seen here are Wildhorse, Coxcomb, Wetterhorn, Matterhorn and Uncompahgre Peaks. I've noticed Coxcomb and Wetterhorn from Ridgway, but Wetterhorn blocks the view of Uncompahgre from Ridgway.

Another view of Wetterhorn, then the shorter Matterhorn, then Uncompahgre Peak.
Colorado wildflowers are my favorite flowers. It looks like there are blurry mountains behind the flowers here, but it's really piled up snow at the side of the road.

A zoomed in view of Uncompahgre Peak. Uncompahgre is the tallest of the San Juan Mountains, and the sixth highest mountain in Colorado standing at 14,309 feet. Jay and Garrett might hike it for Garrett's 14th birthday, a father-son hike up a 14-er. The difficulty is rated 2/5. I would LOVE to hike it also, but I don't think Savanna and Maralee would be ready for that.

Heading up to the summit.
One last glimpse of Uncompahgre Peak from the summit. I'm not sure I've ever seen this mountain before since up until now we have only completed the other half of Engineer Pass. It's kind of a tough one to get to since it's not close to any highway.
From the summit, looking west (very cloudy just like our day trip last year) just right of center you can see Potosi Peak and Mt. Sneffels. Jay hiked Mt. Sneffels last year.
Engineer Pass summit, 12,800 feet.

Maralee was too cold to get out of the car at the summit. I should mention we drove our new Jeep Rubicon on this trip. Jay's CJ-7 only has 4 seats and the kids are too big to squish into that back seat now. We took off the two front pieces of the modular hardtop and Maralee is standing up in the car sticking her head out of the opening.

Driving out on Oh Point.
View of Engineer Mountain from Oh Point.

The tons of snow just made the mountains look weird. To me they looked like some kind of dessert of Cool Whip and chocolate mixed up.

Engineer Pass has a few switchbacks (that I didn't take any pictures of) that are really rocky and steep, and this time they were wet due to the melting snow runnoff. I read in a person's question in a forum asking if they could do Engineer in their Subaru station wagon. I wouldn't suggest it. It was a really long day of 3 Jeep trail summits, one of them twice (Ophir) and I can't wait to go back and hopefully camp along the way.

1 comment:

Starwoodgal said...

Oh L! Arkansas is heating up and there ya'll are in jackets. I'm so jealous. :) I love the photographs. Show the kids my pictures of Gus. I'll try to post more of the dogs soon.

J