This is one of the San Juans' best-kept secrets! Located near Silverton, the trek to Columbine Lake is challenging, but worth it! This high alpine lake starts out with strenuous switchbacks, but flattens out and becomes much easier once you reach the saddle.
The beginning of the hike is switchbacks through a thick forest. After 1.3 miles, it clears a bit and hikers are greeted by an alpine basin. Continue to the saddle, which is two miles into the hike. From the saddle, the hike gets earlier. Continue .2 miles to a "Y" intersection marked by cairns. Take the left to Columbine Lake, or right to continue to Columbine Pass. Cross the outlet stream and continue along the steep trail next to the stream to the lake.
On the hike, you'll encounter fields of wildflowers, wildlife and stunning scenes surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks. Camping is also plentiful in the area, and dogs are permitted on the trail.
Those seeking more adventure can continue on to Columbine Pass, which is an additional mile, but features views of Bridal Veil Basin, Lewis Lake and much more! That trip is 8.9 miles roundtrip from the trailhead.
Local tip - This trail is also accessible from Telluride! While it is much further and difficult, you can reach it past Lewis Lake and Lewis Mine. Ask us how to get there!
Distance: 7.0 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2,748 feet
Time: 5-6 hours
Take Highway 145 west until it ends and take a right on Highway 62 towards Montrose and Ridgway. Turn right on Highway 550 and continue to Ouray. 16 miles south of Ouray you will take a sharp right on Forest Road 820, which is a gravel road. Continue along the road to the trailhead. High clearance vehicles are recommended.