Since I have only been in Colorado for just shy of a year, I really haven’t had any time to meet many local Jeep club folks. We are always on the go, on the road, meeting Jeeples all over the country, so when the call came for an opportunity to go on a trail ride with Montrose’s BackCountry 4×4 group, (and we were home!) we decided to jump at the chance.
It was a trail we haven’t done before… it’s a mild, very beautiful and scenic trail. Really the only trails I’ve been on in Colorado have been Yankee Boy Basin and Buckhorn Lakes since we are gone during the times when they are clear of snow and open. These days, since everyone is sitting around bored in the house with this whole pandemic hoopla going on, I finally had the chance to get out and explore some of the iconic trails of the San Juan mountains!
We met up in Colona, just South of Montrose, where we jumped in line going toward Ridgway and Ouray along the Million Dollar Highway (550) toward Silverton and dropping off at Mineral Creek. You get to the trail by turning off on County Road 7, which is about 2 miles outside Silverton. You’ll pass several campgrounds and at around 3.7 miles you’ll see a sign for Clear Lake County Road 12. (staying to the left takes you to the Bandora Mine).
The Clear Lake OHV trail is a 9.4 mile moderately trafficked, out and back trail that has an elevation gain of 2,654 ft and sits at 11,984 ft of elevation.
There are stunning views along a switch backed shelf road with the Colorado trail to Ice Lakes and the mountain peaks of Rolling mountain, Fuller Peak, Vermillion peak, Golden Horn, and Pilot knob. The Colorado Trail back country is 567 miles from Denver to Durango full of trails, hiking, biking, horseback riding, lakes and backpacking.
The wildflowers were bright and poppin!! I wanted to pick them but I found out it’s actually illegal to pick wildflowers in Colorado, and some can kill you if you eat them (not that I was thinking of eating them)! There are 750 types of wildflowers in Colorado and peak blooming is between June and August, so plan accordingly!
At around 7.8 miles you’ll see a small lake and think you’ve reached Clear Lake…but going just a bit further will immediately convince you how wrong you were! As you round the corner you will see the most beautiful turquoise blue and green lake sitting in a bowl near the top of the mountain. It definitely doesn’t look real!
On the right you will see a small hiking trail to the top of the peak. You can also access trails to the Columbine, Island and Ice lakes from here as well, but it is miles of hiking to get there. There are usually a lot of trout fishing going on at this lake and kayaking.
There’s a parking lot at the top and we were there, everyone was enjoying their lunch and taking photos of the beautiful water. Bring a jacket as the wind can come through the mountain and can be brisk! And don’t forget your sunscreen!