Scenic USA - Colorado

Alpine Loop Trail

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Alpine Backcountry Byway - Lake City, Silverton, Ouray, Colorado

Photo by Roger Gillette
Inset photos by Jack Brauer

   When tackling the Alpine Loop Trail you're saying goodbye to the paved highway and hello to some of the most rugged country in the Colorado Rockies.
   The rugged four-wheel-drive trail will take backroad enthusiasts to Globe Flowers - San Juan Mountains, Colorado the heart of the San Juan Mountains and back to the time when early Native Americans hunted and gathered their food throughout these majestic mountains. Prospectors, searching for gold and silver, followed in the 1870s and improved old Indian paths which trace the rugged Alpine Loop of today.
   This Colorado route connects the towns of Silverton, Ouray and Lake City by way of three alpine gravel roads. The Loop crosses Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass, and introduces back-country byway travelers to some of the nation's highest Wetterhorn Peak - San Juan Mountains, Colorado mountains. Both passes, with high points over 12,000 feet, lead the eye upward toward the mountaintops of the San Juan Range. Along this route you'll find spectacular views of a famous group of 14ers, topped out with the Sunshine Peak (14,001), Redcloud (14,034), Handies Peak (14,048), Wetterhorn (14,010) and the highest summit of the San Juan Range, Uncompahgre Peak (14,309).
   When Colorado visitors arrive unprepared for this type of adventure, it's possible to experience a small portion of the 63 mile byway in Mountain Goat - San Juan Mountains, Colorado a higher clearance truck or SUV. But when the road gets rough and rocky, it's best to find the closest place to turn around. This alpine route is best left to an experienced driver, and there are plenty of back-country tour companies up to the task. And why not leave the driving to an expert and enjoy the incredible scenery without worry? Along with mountain views and alpine forests, you'll be able to explore ghost towns and old mining camps, enjoy the sights of waterfalls, area wildlife, mountain meadows covered in wildflowers, and glacial-carved canyons. Although the route can be driven in a day, it's best to plan on multiple days in order enjoy this incredible scenic byway.

     Byway Map


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