The San Juans

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”

~John Muir

Oh man! What a crazy year we have had! With the snow pack being at an all time high, summertime was put on hold for the Colorado high country. Huge amounts of snow and avalanches devastated our mountain ranges this year. Countless avi debris zones closed trails all over our vast state, making adventuring a little tricky. My husband and I planned a camping-hiking-offroading-fun-a-palooza trip for mid July to explore the San Juan mountain range during peak wildflower season. Little did we know that most of our lake hikes were still under snow and trails were blocked from downed trees. Bummed..we canceled our trip and decided to reschedule for mid August.

And hellllooooo mid August!

Nervous that we waited too long and would miss the beautiful display of wildflowers, we set out on our adventure in hopes of a brightly painted mountain side. We had five days to see as much as we could.

Here was our route:

Night #1: We left work and headed into the mountains. Monarch Pass would put us at a good stopping point so we wouldn’t have to search for camp in the dark. We found ourselves tucked in a huge aspen grove, with nobody around. It was peaceful and perfect.

Day #2: We set out in the morning to Lake City. Our plan was to take Engineer Pass over to Silverton. We have done Engineer Pass multiple times but it has always been raining, foggy, sleeting, or snowing.  We have done this trail in the most gnarly conditions, so we were surprised for what was to come. We had no idea the views from the top would be so epic. We were blown away! We passed fields full of purple lupines, cascading waterfalls, huge rock faces, creeksides lined with wildflowers, and 32 different avalanche sights. We even drove through a 20 foot section of snow, caused by an avalanche. There were still trees poking out of the snow. It was incredible but also scary see how powerful nature can be. After getting into Silverton, we headed to Clear Lake for some lunch and waited to meet up with some friends. We ended our second day camped on a panoramic hillside, with nothing but mountain views all around us.

Day #3: We woke up early to hike one of our favorite trails in the San Juans. Ice and Island Lakes. I was excited to see the trail in the late summer because I heard the wildflowers were out of control. And boy were they right! The trail was lined with so many flowers that my mind was on epic overload. It was like nothing I had ever seen before! You see the pictures but you can never truly understand its majesty until you see it for yourself. After our amazing journey, we took the Million Dollar Highway into Ouray. From there, we decided to explore some new territory in the Sneffels Wilderness. We camped on a secret alpine lake, surrounded by huge mountain faces and sooooo many wildflowers! There were rolling hills full of every color of wildflower, just glowing in the sunshine. This was hands down my favorite part of the trip. We paddle boarded in the vibrant turquoise water and had the whole lake to ourselves for the rest of the night.

Day #4: It was super hard leaving our secret camp spot on the lake but we have more adventuring to do! Our plan today was to head to Ridway and take Owl Pass over to find a new camp spot for the night. Owl Pass is known for its rigid rock formations, chimney rock, and multiple bodies of water along the way. We found a gorgeous flower filled meadow to call it a night, right outside the Wetterhorn Trailhead. We were rewarded with a picturesque sunset and a night sky full of stars.

Day #5: Today we stopped at the Silverjack Reservoir on our way out to Gunnison. Here we will travel to Crested Butte to finish our trip.  Our plan included paddle boarding on Emerald Lake and then finding camp by the lake. Our plan was disrupted by a huge snow field that was blocking the road. We probably could of made it over if we had another vehicle with us. We headed up Washington Gulch for our last night and celebrated with some tequila by the fire!