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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, CO

Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
  4.5 of 5 
CO > West
no permit
134 6 0
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 65 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,330 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 10 hours
Interest Ruins, Historic & Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
23  2020-09-30
Engineer Pass Road
23  2020-07-30 Stoic
8  2018-07-22
Animas Forks Ghost Town
89  2017-07-28 Stoic
14  2012-08-20 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,615
Trips 1,501 map ( 7,603 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → Early
Seasons   Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  4:49am - 7:36pm
1 Alternative

drive-thru history in the San Juans
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is a high altitude backroad loop connecting the towns of Silverton, Lake City, and Ouray. Along its approximately 65 mile long route are rivers, lakes, ghost towns, abandoned mines, 14,000 foot peaks and trailheads. Two mountain passes, Engineer and Cinnamon, both above 12,000 feet, are popular destinations for four wheel drive adventures. Due to snow and avalanche danger, summer is the recommended season for this drive.

Although primarily known as a 4x4 route, much of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is more mild (assuming no snow, that is). Any vehicle can drive between Silverton and Eureka; between Lake City and Capitol City; and between Lake City and Sherman. Above Eureka, Capitol City, and Sherman, high clearance is mandatory, and four wheel drive is highly recommended. The upper Uncompahgre River tangent going past Abrams Mountain is said to be extremely rough.

Snow lingers long in the high country of the San Juans. For current road conditions on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, you may want to contact:

Silverton Public Lands Office
(970) 387-5530. Hours: Seasonally, May 15 thru September 15, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30p.m. every day except closed Wednesdays. Call (970) 884-2512 for off season information.

Lake City Chamber Of Commerce
(800) 569-1874.

Know your vehicle's limitations if you plan to travel the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. Come prepared with appropriate tires, spare tire(s), extra food and water, warm clothing, etc. Sudden storms are possible. Be cautious of lightning, especially whenever you are above treeline.

The area that the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway travels through is loaded with history! More than enough to fill numerous books, which it has. A bit of historical trivia, though...

The route between Silverton and Animas Forks largely follows the route of the Silverton Northern Railroad, a narrow guage mining railroad that existed from the late 1890's to 1942. This railroad was constructed to haul ore from the rich mines along the upper Animas River back down to the waiting trains of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad at Silverton.

Animas Forks, at 11,100 feet, was once the highest town in America. Bitter cold and excessive snow caused most citizens to pack up and leave during the winters. Animas Forks was largely abandoned by the 1920's. Numerous old buildings still stand here, and the BLM has created a brochure-guided walking tour of the historic townsite.

A historical marker along Highway 149 between Lake City and Lake San Cristobal (one half mile off route from the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway) marks the site of an 1874 massacre of an ill-fated prospecting party. Party leader Alferd Packer was ultimately caught, tried, and convicted of murder and cannibalism.

The ghost town of Capitol City was founded in 1877 with the intention of surpassing Denver and becoming the state's capitol. A few buildings remain.

The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is used to access many hikes along its route, including the 14ers Handies, Redcloud, Sunshine, Uncompahgre, and Wetterhorn.

Water Sources:The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway crosses numerous creeks, most of which have water present. Purification is recommended, though.

There are a number of great campsites along the route, and along side roads. Pay attention to public land signage and do not camp on private property.

Check out the Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your 4x4 trip to support this local community.

2012-09-04 PrestonSands
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To 4x4 trip
    From Silverton and Ouray: Take U.S. Highway 550 to Silverton. Turn onto Colorado State Highway 110 and follow it through the town of Silverton. Highway 110 becomes the Alpine Loop Road on the east end of Silverton. Follow the blue, square "Scenic Byway" signs with the blue columbine east up the Animas River canyon toward Animas Forks, Engineer Pass, and Cinnamon Pass.

    From Lake City: Take Colorado Highway 149 to Lake City. At the south end of Lake City, turn onto Hinsdale County Road #30, marked by an Alpine Loop sign and a Cinnamon Pass sign. This is the southern portion of the Alpine Loop, which follows the Lake Fork Gunnison River to Cinnamon Pass and Silverton. Or, in the central part of Lake City, follow the Alpine Loop sign to the northern portion of the Alpine Loop, which follows Henson Creek to Engineer Pass.
    page created by PrestonSands on Sep 04 2012 12:05 am
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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