Whipple Mountain - Trail Running

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About

Summary

Nipping the edge of the remote Sneffels Wilderness Area, this rarely traveled 7.3-mile trail takes you on a ramble through lush, floral forest before ascending to an 11,600-foot saddle and making a quick descent across an open, wildflower-laden hillside.

Written by

Yitka Winn

Distance

7.3 miles

Can also be done as a 14.5 mile loop.

Destination Distance From Downtown

8.6 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 hours

2-3 hours

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

June to October

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Topographical Map

Whipple Mountain Trail Map

Land Website

Whipple Mountain Trail

Review

Intro

Nipping the edge of the remote Sneffels Wilderness Area, this rarely traveled 7.3-mile trail takes you on a ramble through lush, floral forest before ascending to an 11,600-foot saddle and making a quick descent across an open, wildflower-laden hillside. It’s a perfect early- or late-season run, especially for immersing yourself in fall colors in the trail’s abundant aspen groves—and can be run point-to-point, or as part of a 14.5-mile loop in conjunction with a dirt jeep road.

What Makes It Great

This is a rarely used trail tucked into an extremely lush valley, so with it comes a fair share of adventure—some pseudo-bushwhacking (wear long sleeves, tall socks, and/or capris if your skin is prone to irritation in tall grass), lots of wildlife sightings, six-foot tall wildflowers, and a wealth of wild mushrooms.

This 7.3-mile trail can be run in either direction as a point-to-point (the west-to-east route offers a net downhill run), or as a 14.5-mile loop in conjunction with Last Dollar Road.

If starting from the eastern, lower trailhead—recommended if you plan to do the full loop—you begin on a one-mile stretch of the Deep Creek Trail before veering left onto Whipple. In a quarter-mile, veer left yet again to stay on Whipple and descend through a thick aspen glen on overgrown singletrack that carries you down to a gurgling creek. Cross the log bridge.

In another half-mile of descending on gravely doubletrack, you’ll arrive at a “Dead End” gate. The singletrack Whipple trail, clearly signed, continues to the right of this gate. From here, it’s another 1.4 miles to the wilderness boundary—much of which is quite overgrown. Keep an eye out for wild mushrooms hiding in the foliage here.

At about five miles in, you’ll begin climbing in earnest. The trail peters out briefly in a meadow, but follow the tall wooden posts to stay on track. In late July, when wildflowers are peaking, enjoy the incredible swaths of sub-alpine larkspur in the meadows.

From here, the trail switchbacks up through spruce-fir forest and open meadows with views of the jagged Wilson Range and the nearby talus-laden slopes of Hawn and Whipple Mountain. The other edge of the wilderness boundary is your high point, at 11,600 feet. Here, an optional out-and-back bushwhacking scramble to your right of about 400 vertical feet will take you to the summit of Whipple. Otherwise, continue on the main trail for one downhill mile of lovely, runnable singletrack through a carpet of wildflowers. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Utah’s La Sal Mountains on the western horizon.

You’ll emerge at the upper Whipple trailhead on Last Dollar Road. To complete the full loop, hang a left and enjoy the 7.2-mile, net-downhill cruise on this scenic jeep road back to your starting point.


Who is Going to Love It

Mushroom foragers, wildflower enthusiasts, and fall-color fanatics will certainly appreciate the incredible flora along this route. Due to the overgrown nature of many stretches, this one’s best left to the runner who’s looking more for adventure and exploration than for a fast, runnable trail.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To access the eastern, “lower” trailhead, drive three miles west out of Telluride and make a right on Last Dollar Road, following signs for the airport. Just before the airport, make a right to stay on Last Dollar Road, where the pavement quickly turns to dirt. Look for the Deep Creek/Whipple Mountain trailhead parking lot on your right.

The western, “upper” trailhead can be reached—a 4WD, high-clearance vehicle is generally necessary, though—by continuing another seven miles up Last Dollar Road and looking for the clearly marked Whipple trailhead sign.

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Location

Whipple Mountain Trail

38.004252, -107.946299

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