Hike the Colorado Trail: Little Molas Lake to Lime Creek

5.0
10 miles 755 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Brittany Weber

A great hike for day hikers, beginner backpackers, and experts alike, the trail to Lime Creek from Little Molas Lake gives hikers a scenic taste of the Colorado Trail and the beautiful San Juan Mountains. With panoramic views and far reaching vistas it will leave you itching to complete the Colorado Trail in its entirety.

To hike this section of the Colorado Trail, you'll begin from the Little Molas Lake Campground at around 10,895-ft. Little Molas Lake Campground is about 1 mile off of US Highway 550 on Molas Pass just North of and on the other side of the highway from the Molas Overlook, which is just South of Silverton. Pro-tip: there is also another campground nearby called Molas Lake Park & Campground, so it's important to distinguish which you are headed to beforehand. The trailhead is located just past the campground where bathrooms are available (seasonally).

The out-and-back hike follows a 5-mile segment of the trail, traversing pretty meadows with panoramic views high above the Lime Creek Drainage. This is in the area of the 1879 Lime Creek Burn that incinerated 26,000-acres of forest. The fire burned with such intensity that the forest has still not recovered and so it's of utmost importance to follow Leave No Trace principles.

From the trailhead, follow the trail as it heads northwest where you'll begin climbing limestone terraces on switchbacks with moderately easy grades through pockets of trees and meadows with views of Engineer Peak (12,698-ft.) and North Twilight Peak (13,075-ft.)

After gaining around 400-ft. the trail heads northeast and becomes a wide dirt track on top of a ridge. From here you'll see some pretty incredible views. The trail then narrows and turns left (northwest) as it nears West Turkshead Peak, 2 miles from the start of the hike.

You'll then traverse the east side of the North Lime Creek drainage and cross the saddle between Bear Creek (to the north) and North Lime Creek (south) which is roughly 3 miles from the trailhead. From here just continue walking until the trail begins to drop towards the head of Lime Creek on switchbacks. This is the 5 mile mark and a good place to turn around if you're doing a day hike.

From this vantage point the panoramic view encompasses Twin Sisters, Engineer Mountain, Jura Knob, North Twilight Peak, the Snowden Mountains and the Grenadier Range and will stop you in your tracks. After taking a break, grabbing a snack, and soaking in the scenery, retrace your steps and enjoy the view all over again on the return leg if you are day-hiking. If you're backpacking, find a durable surface to set up camp (and I suggest going further down the trail to a lower elevation to avoid exposure) and take it all in.

This hike is especially breathtaking during the fall, but be aware that in alpine and subalpine settings you can expect and plan for unpredictable weather - snow and hail are common during summer thunderstorms and snow comes earlier in the fall in the mountains. I suggest checking the weather and preparing for the worst just in case!

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Camping
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Running
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Reviews

Rate this Adventure

An easy trail at High Altitude

This has always been a favorite hike of mine in the Durango - Silverton stretch. I love the wide vista to the south which is in view for the majority of the hike; you can see across Spud, Engineer, the Twilights, and other recognizable mountains. And the hike itself is very accessible, not too crowded, and can be modified shorter without losing the value of the hike. Because of that, I often take visitors to this trail.. but I would caution that some who are visiting from low elevations are strained by the elevation of this hike.

Fall Wonderland

One of the best day hikes I've ever done - the views can't be beat and the trail is easy to follow. It helps that I had some pretty incredible weather and the leaves had already changed too! Nothing beats autumn in the mountains.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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