The Highland Mary Lakes in the San Juans of southwestern Colorado are a great introduction to the high peaks of the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The wildflowers are bigger there than anywhere else I’ve been, the trails are higher, and the scenery is breathtaking. Hiking above 12,000 feet is pretty darn breathtaking, too. It took me a few days to get used to that part!
The Highland Mary Trail starts east of the old mining town of Silverton (which is worth a visit itself.) You drive about four miles through Cunningham Gulch on an increasingly rough road that includes a creek crossing at the end. The trail starts at 10,480 ft., and climbs 1,600 ft. to the first lake. The first time we did this we planned to backpack about 5 miles, but I needed to rest so often during the first 2 1/2 miles to the first lake that we decided to set up camp at the lakes. It turned out to be an excellent option: the lakes are a perfect spot to set up a basecamp and spend a few days exploring. Hiking without a heavy pack made a huge difference in my ability to enjoy my surroundings. The hiking season is short, though: there’s often snow until mid-July, and snow again by mid-September. But it’s been surprisingly uncrowded the two times we’ve been there, which was a nice surprise.
Oh my gosh beautiful flowers!
What beautiful photos! I will have to add this spot to my list of future places to visit and hike. So lovely.
Definitely add the Weminuche Wilderness. I really was shocked, though, at how much the altitude affected me. I think spending another day at 9,000 feet (Silverton’s altitude) would have been a good idea.
Beautiful scenery and flowers! What a place!
It is an incredible part of the world, that’s for sure.
I was there in June 2012. It’s a spectacular place. Your photos are very nice.
Another really spectacular place to go is Ice Lakes Basin, also outside of Silverton. The wildflowers there from mid-July to early August can be waist-high, rivaling the other famous locale for wildflowers, Yankee Boy Basin. The hike above the lower basin to the higher one brings you to the breathtaking Ice Lake, which is bright turquoise in color and surrounded by bright green-tinged tundra. You may also want to explore trails up to Island Lake and Fuller Lake, each about an additional mile to either one and well worth it! The mountain views in this mystical place are just incredible!
Thanks – great tips!
One of my favorite places in the world. I grew up in Durango and made many trips to the Lakes. Hopefully it is still “what you take in, you take out” that’s what makes it special.
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