Alpine Trail

Round Trip Distance: 7.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 9198 - 11,317 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Alpine
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, scenic views

The Alpine trail is located near Silver Jack Reservoir in the Mountain Division of the Uncompahgre National Forest east of Montrose, Colorado. The entire Alpine trail is about 18 miles long with one end at Forest Road 858 and the other at Forest Road 868. This post begins at the lower end on FR 858 and turns around after a little less than 4 miles. The rest of the trail will be posted at some future date when we hike the trails in the Little Cimarron Area. This section of the trail climbs to the top of the High Mesa with the aid of about 40 switchbacks.

To get to the trailhead drive east from Montrose on Highway 50 for about 20.5 miles and turn south onto the Cimarron Road. Follow it for about 17.8 miles to the trailhead which is a pullout along side of the road less than a mile past the Silver Jack Campground. There isn't a restroom at the trailhead but there is one nearby at the Silver Jack Overlook and at any of the campgrounds.

The trail starts out across several large meadows heading east toward the towering conglomerate cliffs below the high mesa.

Once in the trees the sunlight becomes filtered by the thick canopy made by the tall stands of aspen and spruce. The trail gets just enough dirt bikers riding its course to keep it well defined and easy to follow.

A few sections of the trail are fairly steep. Eventually you get a very up close view of the spires and cliffs that once seemed so high and far away.

If you watch the slideshow at the end of this post you will see that we took pictures of a lot of the switchbacks. We wanted to emphasize the sheer number of them. Altogether they make an easier climb out of an otherwise extremely steep mountain side. The total elevation gain on the hike came out to be 2,949 feet. That is a pretty good workout on any day.

At the 2.8 mile point of the hike, near the top of the mountain, the trail is joined by the High Mesa trail. This was originally going to be the turn around spot for this post. One of our objectives though was to be able to take in the views of the surrounding mountains. Up to this point there weren't enough open spots to see through the trees to satisfy us so we decided to continue following the trail in search of a good overlook.

Hiking along the top of the mesa is about as easy and pleasant as any hike can get. The elevation is over 11,000 feet at this point so the temperature is nice and cool.

We were able to find 3 side trails that led to overlooks. From this outcrop of rocks there is a nice view of the 14,308 foot prominence of Uncompahgre Peak. We have climbed that one once and have it on our agenda for another hike in the near future.

It is easy to see why this mountain would get the name of High Mesa.

Off in the distance to the west is the 14,107 foot monarch of the San Juans Mt. Sneffels. We have climbed that one twice.

This is about the best view of Silver Jack that we could get. All it shows is the area of the reservoir where the tail waters come in.

From part way up the mountain there is a good shot of Wetterhorn Basin. Wetterhorn Peak is another one of the peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado that tops out at 14,015 feet. We climbed that one the same day that we did Uncompahgre Peak.

On the way back to the trailhead we picked one of the many king bolete mushrooms that we saw. King boletes are a very meaty mushroom that make excellent soup. They are also very large so one or two of them go a long way. We had our choice from several dozen that were growing in the area.

We were expecting this portion of the Alpine trail to be pretty tough but it turned out to be a little easier than expected. All of the switchbacks and the cool morning temperatures probably had a lot to due with it. It may have also helped that we had hiked up Mt. Baldy in Utah a few days earlier and it had over 3,700 feet of elevation gain. That is probably why you should take what we call moderate or strenuous with a grain of salt because it is all relative to how fit you are. All said, the Alpine trail is a very pleasant hike. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.