San Juan County, Colorado
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Nearby Towns: Ophir, Telluride, Silverton
Nearby Trails: Black Bear Pass, Clear Lake, Alta Lakes, Bullion King Lake, Red Mountain Pass
Trail Length: 9.8 miles
Elevation: 9,298 to 11,814 feet
This trail starts just north of the town of Silverton, and it effectively connects Highway 550 to Highway 145 just south of Telluride. It offers an additional way to get back and forth between the two areas without having to travel the lengthy, paved route. It would make a good trail to pair with Black Bear Pass or Imogene Pass.
This trail can be run in either direction, but note that the trail on the west side of the pass is steep and extremely narrow. You can see for a long distance at the top and bottom of this stretch, so you can see if other vehicles are coming before you start. Though many exceptions exist, traffic going uphill usually has the right-of-way.
If you start on the east end near Silverton, the trail is wide and easy. When you come to the "Y" in the trail you will turn right and head uphill while the easy trail continues straight ahead, following Mineral Creek. At this point, the trail becomes rougher but not at all difficult.
You round corners but find very few switchbacks as you climb above timberline to Ophir Pass. The views of the mountains around the trail are magnificent, but they are perhaps even better on the other side. The views from the pass are awe-inspiring. If you travel this trail in June just after it has been opened, you may get to see walls of snow on each side up to 20 feet high in places.
It is important to note that on the west side of the pass there is an old trail that descends just a short way from the pass itself to connect with the actual trail. This is an old trail and is no longer in use -- do not use this old trail as it is not a legal route. Stay on the trail that is obviously more well-traveled.
Just after the pass is the narrow section where you descend into the trees. Be sure to look far ahead before starting down, just in case there is someone coming up. If you can see someone on their way up, above timberline, you should wait for them to pass while the trail is still wide enough.
Once you descend back down into the trees you will find yourself in the shade, most likely. It is very lush on this side. There are a couple of water crossings most of the year. It isn't long before you get to the tiny town of Ophir. Continue west to find Highway 145, where you turn right to go to Telluride or left to go to Dolores County.
Information last updated on September 10th, 2008.
From Silverton, head north on Highway 550 to turn left on County Road 8 less than 5 miles from town. The trail starts here.
Meet at the Silverton Grocery in Silverton.