“Fourteeners” in the San Juan Mountains

Aerial Snow Rocky Mountains
Exploring the San Juan Mountains literally can provide a lifetime of fun, adventure and challenges on foot, in four-wheelers or on bikes. Many of today’s hiking and jeep trails were wagon and pack trails to long ago abandoned mines. For this reason, many incredibly scenic places in the San Juan mountains are accessible that otherwise would have remained nature’s secret treasure-troves. Instead, whatever sport or activity interests anyone enjoys, there’s an experience that can be found in the San Juan Mountains, enhanced by their geological complexity, dramatic sculpting by glaciers and high elevation. As for high elevation, 14 of Colorado’s 58 mountains over 14,000 feet high (Fourteeners or 14ers) are among the San Juan Mountains. These high mountains and others provide every type of nature’s life zones from the foothills (between 5,000 to 7,500 feet) to subalpine, 9,000 to timberline (about 11,500 feet), and Alpine above that level.
Fall of Mt. Sneffels
The San Juans undoubtedly are Colorado’s finest range. Unsurpassed beauty and enough peaks, lakes and open meadows can satisfy any mountain climbing, backpacking and photography desires. The San Juans can claim to be the best mountains in Colorado to embark on both short and long treks. Mountains to traverse are always within view. Many trails begin near highways. For example, drive up US 550 through Animus Valley north of Durango where the roadway follows tracks of the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Soon the geologic wonders of Engineer Mountain open up along with the Needle Mountains. Past Purgatory Resort the impressive Grizzly Peak captivates on the way up to Coal Bank Pass (10,610 ft.). The highest peak in the San Juans goes to massive Uncompahgre Peak at 14,309 feet in elevation with a giant summit, unlike many other San Juan peaks that have steep slopes leading to comparatively small summits,
Rocky Mountain Autumn Sneffels

The remote and rugged Wilson Group and Wilson Peak, 13 miles southwest of Telluride, rise like sentinels of the San Miguel Mountains. El Diente, located in the San Juan National Forest, is only 7 miles west of Ouray and five miles north of Telluride. Mount Wilson (14,023), the highest peak in Dolores County, was not named for President Woodrow Wilson but rather for A.D. Wilson, chief topographer of the U.S. Government’s Hayden Survey (1873-75), a renowned geographer and mountaineer who made the first ascent of five Colorado 14ers (Uncompahgre, Sneffels, Sunshine, Mt. Wilson, and Handies).

Visit any of the towns along the San Juan Skyway and you’re surrounded by high mountain valleys and 13er peaks. Silverton sits in BLM land with three national forests that feature alpine valleys and towering peaks. Driving south to Silverton from Ouray on 550, the highway crosses Red Mountain Pass (11,018). North from Durango the road crosses Coal Bank (10,640 ft.) and Molas (10,970 ft.) Visitors to Telluride are about 10 miles northwest of Lizard Head Wilderness with its 3 14ers and several 13ers. Located in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness, Mount Sneffels rises 7,200 feet above the towns of Ridgway and Ouray, creating one of the most photographed scenic ridgelines in the San Juans.