Colorado 14ers: Mount Sneffels

This 4.8-mile out-and-back climbs steep, boulder-covered slopes and an often snow-filled couloir to a compact San Juan summit overlooking turquoise mountain lakes.
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This 4.8-mile out-and-back climbs steep, boulder-covered slopes and an often snow-filled couloir to a compact San Juan summit overlooking turquoise mountain lakes.

There’s a reason Ridgway is one of Colorado’s hottest markets for ranch property: It’s that view of the craggy north side of Mt. Sneffels from CO 62, between Ridgway and Telluride. In September, the peak’s snow-dusted, mile-high escarpment provides a shadowy backdrop for aspen-colored hills and golden pastures lined by split-rail fences. Compressed by a telephoto lens, this chamber-of- commerce image screams “High Country Heaven.”Most hikers start up the opposite side of Sneffels, where the scenery ain’t too shabby, either. In July, meadows near the trailhead in Yankee Boy Basin host some of the lushest wildflower gardens in existence. The march up the mountain isn’t as good as its views, but it only takes a couple of hours. A short but spirit-sapping scree slog gains Lavender Col at 13,500 feet, where a couloir jammed with teetering talus—or snow in early summer—shoots toward the summit. (Stick to the biggest blocks to minimize erosion.) On top, your legs may be sore from the talus-hopping, but your soul will be refreshed by the crenellated ridges radiating from the striking pyramid that is Mt. Sneffels.-Text by Dougald MacDonald-Mapped by Tim George

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.6

Waypoints

SNE001

Location: 37.989704, -107.771988

From 4WD parking area, follow 4WD road to the W toward Wright's Lake

SNE002

Location: 37.990051, -107.781433

Pass old mine tailings; continue following road

SNE003

Location: 37.989799, -107.784317

Pass a cascading waterfall on the L; keep climbing

SNE004

Location: 37.990685, -107.785385

Walk around the E side of Wright's Lake, then head NW

SNE005

Location: 37.991268, -107.784569

Bear L, leaving the road; follow Blue Lakes Trail to the NW

SNE006

Location: 37.992516, -107.786018

Continue NW trek along rock moraine; short switchback climb awaits

SNE007

Location: 37.995968, -107.792915

Bear R and leave Blue Lakes Trail, heading N

SNE008

Location: 37.999451, -107.792458

Continue steep climb NE up wide, talus-filled slope to a small saddle

SNE009

Location: 38.001797, -107.790031

From the saddle, head NW to ascend deep couloir with seasonal snow

SNE010

Location: 38.003849, -107.792351

Mt. Sneffels (14,150 ft.): Look out onto dizzying views of dramatic ridgelines from Sneffel's small, isolated summit; retrace route