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Bridge of Heaven via the "New" Horsethief Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.8 (9) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

This worthy day hike climbs to a lofty vantage point with panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains.


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Map Key

8.1

Miles

13.1

KM

Out and Back

12,208' 3,721 m

High

9,352' 2,850 m

Low

2,856' 871 m

Up

2,856' 870 m

Down

13%

Avg Grade (8°)

47%

Max Grade (25°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Respect the private property on either side of the road leading up to the trailhead.

Overview

This strenuous, yet classic Ouray hike lives up to every expectation. From the onset, a healthy forest embraces the trail in beauty, but as you pull above treeline, mountain views stretch from horizon to horizon. Don't forget your camera on this one!

Need to Know

4WD and high clearance is required to cross Dexter Creek and reach the Upper Horsethief Trailhead. The spring snowmelt can make this crossing dangerous.

As this trail travels above treeline, plan to be up and down by noon before the afternoon thunderstorms have a chance to roll in. And reaching altitudes of over 12,000 feet, altitude sickness can be a real problem on this trail.

Description

Taking its lead from the Horsethief Trail, the route up to the Bridge of Heaven first winds along a level path through coniferous pines and pockets of aspen.

Gaining 500 feet along the first series of switchbacks, the new trail meets with the old at the eastern terminus of the Old Horsethief Trail. Climbing from the trees onto the bald southern exposure of the mountainside, panoramic views of the Sneffels Range open up.

The next 2 miles pulls the route above treeline to find 1,500 more feet of elevation gain. The final oxygen-deprived push towards the summit ends at the 12,000 foot Bridge of Heaven.

Flora & Fauna

Deer, mountain goat, and bighorn, and the occasional mountain lion or bear can be sighted along any of the Ouray-area trails. Above treeline, wildflowers blanket the high alpine meadows. With the snowmelt in early spring, this is a great trail for viewing waterfalls.

History & Background

This description follows the "new" Horsethief Trail, but a second one leaves from Ouray on a steeper approach. Through the years, this "old" trail had been washed out during heavy rains as it passed through the "Blowout". Volcanic in origin, the "Blowout" is highly mineralized and was the center of Ouray's mining district.

Contacts

Shared By:

Caroline Cordsen

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 9 votes

#1

in Ouray

#711

Overall
  4.8 from 9 votes
5 Star
78%
4 Star
22%
3 Star
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1 Star
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Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Ouray

#144

in Colorado

#711

Overall
225 Views Last Month
5,907 Since Jun 30, 2017
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Wildflowers blanket the mountainside.
May 12, 2017 near Ouray, CO
Enjoy phenomenal views at the Bridge of Heaven.
May 12, 2017 near Ouray, CO

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Weather


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Check-Ins

Jul 18, 2020
Marc Corona
Amazing view, relentless uphill but never too steep or difficult
Jul 28, 2018
Sally Forth
Relentless climb! Views definitely worth it.
Aug 15, 2016
Anni Hurt