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Coalbank Pass to Molas Pass

Difficult
 5.0 (4) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Some great high-alpine trail with beautiful views of the San Juans.


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Map Key

21.7

Miles

35.0

KM

Point to Point

12,471' 3,801 m

High

10,696' 3,260 m

Low

3,656' 1,114 m

Up

3,459' 1,054 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (4°)

33%

Max Grade (18°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

This trail is open year round, but I don't know if you would want to do it in the winter.

Overview

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!

Need to Know

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.

Description

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.

Flora & Fauna

Summer and fall can be absolutely stunning with the wildflowers of the high alpine slopes.

Contacts

Shared By:

aaron moore

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 4 votes

#839

Overall
  5.0 from 4 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#170

in Colorado

#839

Overall
32 Views Last Month
5,892 Since Apr 9, 2016
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Photos

After leaving the forest you enter a meadow and depending on the time of year you may see a field of Paintbrush with Engineer dominating the view above.
Apr 9, 2016 near Rico, CO
View from the top of the pass (high point) down to where you'll be heading.
Apr 9, 2016 near Silverton, CO
Little Molas Lake from the Colorado Trail near Silverton
Oct 5, 2019 near Silverton, CO
If you like tight singletrack, solitude, and epic views, White Creek is for you!
Apr 18, 2016 near Rico, CO
Looking towards the junction with Engineer Mountain Trail
Apr 18, 2016 near Silverton, CO
Climbing up one of the last switchbacks up to the high point of the day
Apr 9, 2016 near Silverton, CO

Weather


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Check-Ins

Sep 4, 2020
Bill Blanford
Great Views, Long Trail in great shape 21mi — 9h 30m
Aug 3, 2018
Steven Ancik
Did this over 3 days in July 2018. Started at Little Molas Lake to Coal Bank Pass 23.1mi