This 50.5-mile hike runs south-to-north across Endlich Mesa, Silver Mesa, the Needle Mountains, the Grenadier Range, the Highland Mary Plateau, and Arrastra and Spencer Basins before plunging straight into downtown Silverton. Along the way, you’ll encounter spectacular plateaus of rolling tundra, ripsaw ridges, cliff-ringed lakes, and lush midsummer wildflowers, but it’s not a route for the lazy or unacclimatized. For most of its length, you’ll wander up and down through a succession of steep passes, with long stretches above 12,000 feet. Budget at least seven days; peakbagging and side hikes beg for more time. About half of the route requires off-trail routefinding. We recommend downloading the author’s track log and waypoints for map-plotting or GPS use. Despite often steep terrain, there’s no exposed scrambling that requires ropes—unless you go in spring, when an ice axe and/or crampons would also be useful for steep snow.
Maps: Trails Illustrated 140 Weminuche Wilderness, and USGS topos Columbine Pass, Storm King Peak, Howardsville, and Silverton
–Mapped by Steve Howe