Hinsdale County, Colorado
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Lake City, Silverton, Ouray
Nearby Trails: Mineral Creek, California Gulch, Picayne Gulch, Wager Gulch, Engineer Pass, Jarosa Mesa
Trail Length: 20 miles
Elevation: 9,007 to 12,656 feet
One of Colorado's most scenic offroad drives is the Alpine Loop, a combination of this trail and the Engineer Pass trail. Though you can drive the loop in either direction, it is most typically driven west on Cinnamon Pass and east on Engineer Pass. You can drive the loop in any SUV with good clearance, though you may find challenges in some spots on the west end of the trail. It is usually a busy trail, so if you have troubles it will probably not be long before someone finds you.
Finding the trailhead is easy, with many signs pointing the way from Lake City. You go by Lake San Cristobal on the pavement, and you can drive on either side of it to get to the Cinnamon Pass trailhead. There is good camping near the lake, the largest non-manmade lake in Colorado.
When the road turns to a dirt road you have found the trail. The early parts of the trail are very easy, with lots of room for passing. The trail follows the Gunnison River for some amazing views.
You'll find an intersection where you can go down into the valley to see where the town of Sherman once was, or you can continue to the right and uphill to stay on Cinnamon Pass. An overlook of the valley is marked where you can walk out and read signs about the town of Sherman that once was.
The road turns into a shelf road here, and passing may be difficult or impossible in spots. However, the trail is not difficult.
Continue following the trail through Burrows Park where you can read a descriptive sign about the area and what the townspeople went through. Soon after this area, the trail gets a bit rougher.
You climb switchbacks and steep sections to the top, and sometimes the switchbacks are a bit rocky. Careful tire placement here is a must. Take it slowly and you will make it to Cinnamon Pass between Cinnamon Mountain and Wood Mountain, a crest marked with a sign.
A short descent takes you to the intersection with the Engineer Pass trail. Turn right to continue the Alpine Loop, or turn left to head down to the ghost town of Animas Forks, a fun side trip. There is an easy road here that will take you to Silverton if that is your plan, or you can explore the California Gulch trail and other trails that spur from it.
Information last updated on August 30th, 2009.
From Lake City, travel south on highway 149 and follow signs to County Road 30, Cinnamon Pass and Lake San Cristobal. Drive past the lake to find the dirt road trail on the other side.
Meet in Lake City at the Mocha Moose Coffee House.