Molas Pass - Colorado Trail Segment 25

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Summary

There are few places in the world that can compare to the raw, boundless beauty of Molas Pass. At 10,910 ft. above sea level, Molas Pass affords uninterrupted views of the oft-snowcapped peaks that make up the Twilights, the Needles, and the Grenadiers.

Written by

Margaret Hedderman

Distance

12.0 miles

Feel free to add miles along the Colorado Trail at your leisure

Destination Distance From Downtown

33.8 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

6 hours

You can extend the hike as an out and back as long as you like

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

There are few places in the world that can compare to the raw, boundless beauty of Molas Pass. At 10,910 ft. above sea level, Molas Pass affords uninterrupted views of the oft-snowcapped peaks that make up the Twilights, the Needles, and the Grenadiers. Segment 25 of the Colorado Trails begins at Molas Pass and stretches into the west on its way to Durango. Follow this high-altitude section of the Colorado Trail at your leisure to get a taste of Durango’s most spectacular backcountry. As this is an out and back, walk as far as you like, enjoying Colorado’s famous wildflowers.

What Makes It Great

This high-altitude trail is accessible directly off of US 550, making it very popular during peak season. For the most part, this section of trail is above tree line and in a good year, the meadows will be painted with wildflowers. From the Little Molas carpark, climb above the Little Molas Lake before reaching the 11,000 ft. mark. The trail continues to climb as it briefly veers north toward the North Lime Creek.

Although the trail is well graded and not particularly steep, some may find it difficult because of the altitude. Remember to drink plenty of water (between 2-3 liters per day) before, during and after your hike. Many symptoms of altitude sickness are exacerbated by dehydration.

There are a couple of places in the first three miles where the trail splits. Stay right at both intersections. At Mile 3, the trail joins with a single-track on your left. To make this an even ten-mile day-hike, turn around at the first major creek crossing. Of course, if you’d like to continue and make this an overnight backpacking trip, there is an informal campsite near Lime Creek at Mile 6.

Be aware of the weather while hiking this high-altitude and exposed section of trail. During the summer months, thunderstorms (known as monsoons) typically roll in during the afternoons.

Who is Going to Love It

This is a must-do on any trip to Durango if you want amazing pictures and memories to take home. If you’re coming from low elevation, it might be best to take a few days and get acclimated before hitting this trail. That said, this trail is not technical and can be enjoyed by families, seniors, and experienced hikers alike.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Durango, drive north on US 550. Once you pass Purgatory Resort, you’ll begin your ascent to the top of Coal Bank Pass at 10,640 ft. In another 6 miles, you’ll reach the top of Molas Pass. Continue on for another half-mile to reach CR 584. Take a left, and continue up the dirt road to the Little Molas Campground and carpark, which has a couple of long drops. A trail at the end of the carpark meets up the CT in a couple hundred meters.

If you’re still up for a scenic drive after your hike, continue north on 550. Known as the Million Dollar Highway, this section of US 550 is one of the best drives in Colorado. In roughly 7 miles, you’ll reach the old mining town of Silverton where the D&SNG railroad arrives from Durango on a daily basis.

Location

Molas Pass

Durango, CO,
37.744552, -107.709961

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