Overview: Red Mountain number 3, at 12,890, is the highest of the three Red Mountain peaks, located between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado. The summit is easily accessible via a closed road that leads to the summit, and is the route described here. The hike crosses private property that is posted as "no trespassing", but "non-motorized travel" is "welcome", according to the sign.
Warning: As with any hike above treeline, be sure to start early to avoid thunderstorms.
History: Red Mountain (and the entire Ouray-Silverton area, for that matter) was the scene of prolific mining activity during the late 19th century. Rich gold and silver mines on the west slope of Red Mountain #3 led to the founding of a town there named Red Mountain. In its prime, three newspapers served the town, as well as the Silverton Railroad, which ran north out of Silverton, roughly following the route of present day Highway 550. The ruins of Red Mountain are visible far below from the upper reaches of this hike.
Hike: From Highway 550, San Juan County Road #14 almost immediately turns south, near the site of the Koehler Tunnel. This is the best place to park, as the road soon crosses onto private property. Hike south along the road, which begins to turn east to climb a steep, forested ravine.
Near the top of the ravine, the road forks. Go left, through another gate. The route passes the ruins of the historic Carbon Lake Mine, as it snakes it way up a small basin. On the upper edge of the basin, the road reaches a fork, next to a collapsed log structure. Stay left.
Just above the basin, the route bypasses a locked gate in the road, and suddenly finds itself above treeline, with a view of Red Mountain number 3's summit. The road continues east and upward, across tundra slopes, reaching a saddle at 12,100 feet. Views are outstanding, with an endless sea of high peaks to the east and west.
Leaving the saddle for its summit push, the road steepens considerably, as it climbs the loose, decaying rock on the south slope of Red Mountain number 3. Several lung taxing switchbacks bring the road to its end at a small communication structure, just below the top. An easy off trail scramble up the red orange rocks takes one another 75 feet or so higher to the true summit. The view from the cone shaped summit is absolutely incredible, with 13er and 14er peaks spread out in all directions. The two lower Red Mountains, whose iron stained slopes contrast sharply with the surrounding grey peaks, lie just to the north and east. There appeared to be a summit cairn and register, but the summit was still buried in deep snow on our mid-June hike.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.