Hiking this trail allows people to explore the San Juans in one beautiful day. You have great views to the west and all of the San Juans to the east. There is never a moment when the view is not spectacular. The lowest part of this trail is at an elevation of 10,680 ft... the lowest you'll be all day!
There is not much protection so if doing this route during the monsoons, please start early or you'll end up like my partner and I and get rained and hailed on all afternoon.
You can start this route from either Molas or Coalbank Pass, but I will describe the route as it heads from Coalbank to Molas. Start at the Coalbank Trailhead on the Pass Creek Trail
(get there early in the summer because the parking lot can fill up with other visitors working their way up to Engineer Mountain).
After starting your journey out working through the forest, you'll come out to a meadow (roughly 2.56mi) below Engineer. Once at the meadow you'll come to a fork... left is down (not preferable), straight is up Engineer (nice side option), or right is where you want to go. From here, you'll be on the Engineer Mountain Trail
3.5 miles into the trip, you'll come to a fork. We went left on the White Creek Trail
which is the longer option. If you choose to go right, you go over Jura Knob and cut a good portion of mileage out. Left takes you on a roundabout way to finally connect with the Colorado Trail.
Approximately 8.5 mi in. you reach the Colorado Trail (CT)
, where you'll take a right to head east. This starts a 1.5 mi steady slog to the top of the pass. You'll continue on the Colorado Trail (CT)
for another mile, where you'll reach a junction. This is the second time you'll be seeing the Engineer Mountain Trail
, but continue left on the Colorado Trail.
*Sidenote: if you took the trail to the right at the junction 3.5 mi into the route, this is where you would come out.*
From here on out you are hiking on the famous Colorado Trail all the way to Molas Pass.
While this is a long route, roughly 20 miles, it is stunning the whole way, and you'll be surprised at how quick it goes. As stated before, this is a high alpine loop so be prepared to be sucking wind, especially on the climbs.
Summer and fall can be absolutely stunning with the wildflowers of the high alpine slopes.