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In the summer, this high-altitude hike hosts an amazing array of wildflowers—and hikers—en route to one of the San Juan’s most distinct and photographed peaks: Engineer Mountain. Though this route stops short of the distinct double summit, energetic hikers can add the 0.6-mile out-and-back that climbs an additional 700 feet to the 12,968-foot summit.
From the Pass Creek Trailhead, the trail winds east and north across a steep, grassy slope. The climb intensifies as the trail enters the spruce-fir forest and turns left, rounding the eastern edge of the mountain onto its northern slope and skirting a small lake just a mile from the trailhead. Continue climbing past treeline and turn right at the signed junction with the Engineer Mountain Trail. Panoramic views reward as you climb the increasingly rocky and steep trail—be sure to notice the rock glacier “flowing” beneath the north slope. The narrow, exposed ridge leading to the summit requires scrambling and sure-footedness to navigate to the top, so follow the line of hikers heading up, or turn around when you’ve had your fill.
-Mapped by Erinn Morgan
- Distance: 9.1
Location: 37.6990618, -107.7787167
This hike begins at the Pass Creek Trailhead, 70 yards west of CO 550. Though there aren’t any facilities here, the rest area on CO 550 has public restrooms. Follow the trail on the north side of the lot to begin a steady climb.
Location: 37.7049678, -107.7792156
The trail levels briefly as it skirts the northern shore of a small lake. Continue straight on the trail, following a sharp turn to the right about 500 yards ahead.
Location: 37.7045094, -107.7950835
The forest ends here and the landscape turns to delicate sub-alpine meadows.
Location: 37.7038134, -107.7984416
Continue straight (north) toward a sloping hillside picnic spot above Coal Creek.
Location: 37.7055705, -107.7991819
This picnic spot is just 200 yards north of the main trail. Try to stick to the trail and tread lightly in this delicate alpine environment. Next, return to the Waypoint 4 and turn right (west) onto Engineer Mountain Trail. Begin the steep, rocky climb toward the summit.
Location: 37.7011989, -107.8022075
This route tops out at 12,200-feet (only 768 feet and 0.3 mile shy of the summit). Turn around and retrace the route to the trailhead. If the weather is holding, continue uphill, navigating the scree field along mountain’s eastern razor edge.
Location: 37.6997473, -107.7790546
Mid-summer hiking reveals waist-high wildflowers.
Trail near Coal Bank Pass
Location: 37.7008381, -107.7788401
Early risers can beat the inevitable mountain monsoons; mornings deliver bluebird skies and cooler temps.
Location: 37.7016742, -107.77825
Abundant wildflowers flank the trail heading uphill.
Location: 37.7015469, -107.7760935
Location: 37.7045604, -107.795577
The first view of the Engineer Mountain Summit as the trail leaves the forest.
Location: 37.7048065, -107.7958131
Colorado’s state flower, the Columbine, makes an appearance on this high-altitude trail.
Location: 37.7036436, -107.7970684
Nearing the top, expect to see snow fields well into the summer.
Engineer Mountain Trail
Location: 37.7034993, -107.7980876
The Engineer Mountain Trail is marked and easy to follow through the alpine meadows.
Location: 37.7033889, -107.7998257
The steep, rocky, and loose trail toward the top of the mountain.
Location: 37.7024807, -107.8015423
Looking northwest toward Engineer Mountain’s rock glacier on the summit-bound trail.
Location: 37.7018525, -107.8019714
Panoramic trail views of the majestic San Juan Mountains.
Location: 37.7011989, -107.802068
The summit is within reach, but the trail turns to mountain-goat territory and the exposed razor’s edge can be unsettling.