Highland Mary Lakes
Part of the High Country trails system.
Reaching the spectacular high alpine tundra of the Weminuche Wilderness usually requires a multi-day backpacking trip. The Highland Mary Lakes trail is an exception, providing day hikers quick access to this alpine wonderland. The hike visits three of the seven Highland Mary Lakes as well as the Verde Lakes, all above 12,000-ft. Getting to the lakes basin requires a bit of effort. The trail climbs through a diverse landscape of forest and meadows interspersed with picturesque waterfalls to reach the high lakes plateau, gaining over 1,300-ft. in 1.7 miles.
Atop the plateau hikers are greeted with breathtaking views of the glistening lakes set amid a broad expanse of rolling alpine tundra. A gentle climb through the tundra leads to Verde Lakes and wonderful views of the Grenadier Range where the distinctive pyramid-shaped West Trinity, Vestal and Arrow Peaks are the stars of the show. The hike can be done as an out-and-back or turned into a loop by following a segment of the Continental Divide Trail that features more great views of the Grenadiers along with fine views of the high peaks rising above the Deep Creek Valley. The final return leg of the loop heads down the Cunningham Gulch trail accompanied by great views of the summits ringing Spencer Basin and the Cunningham Creek valley.
Map & Directions
Map Coordinates: 37.764266, -107.579498
Where's the Trailhead?
dIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD
From 9th Street and Main Avenue in Durango, head west on 9th Street toward Camino Del Rio (Highway 550). Turn right onto Camino Del Rio (Hwy 550) and continue north on Hwy 550 past Purgatory Resort toward Silverton. Drive northeast through Silverton on Greene Street, the town’s main street, pass the courthouse (on the left) and bear right on County Road 2 toward Howardsville. The road is paved for the first 2.0-miles and then turns to a good gravel surface. Just before reaching Howardsville, turn right on County Road 4 (marked with a sign for the Old One Hundred Mine Tour). Follow CR 4, a good dirt road, for 3.7 miles up Cunningham Gulch to the ruins of a mine. Note: County Road 4 splits part-way up Cunningham Gulch. Either road will get you to the trailhead. The road to the right (lower road) is easier. Hikers in low clearance vehicles should park off the road near the mine and walk up the road about 0.8 miles, gaining about 380-ft., to the trailhead. If walking the road, add 1.6 miles to the round-trip to the trail distance.
The road crosses a bridge and then starts climbing up the right (west) side of the creek with the aid a long switchback. (The road gets rougher as it climbs, but is still OK for high clearance vehicles). Follow the road for a little over 0.8 miles to an intersection with a road splitting off to the left. If you are in a high clearance 2WD vehicle continue past this intersection to an obvious parking area on your left. Those with 4WD can turn left, following the road downhill and across the creek. The trailhead parking lot is just beyond the crossing. Use care during periods of high water.
help build our trails!
Join us for trail maintenance on Engineer Mountain Trail on July 13th from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Please note, registration is required to join us for Trailwork; please click below to register.