Date hiked: 9/15/16
Mileage: 11 miles; 4 hrs
Head Count (how many other hikers I saw):2 groups hiking and 1 camper at the lake
It’s hard to say just what my favorite part about San Juan hiking is, but one great thing these mountains have to offer are the lakes – all 32 of them. For the most part, receding glaciers and volcanic eruptions are the known culprits for these beautiful high alpine masterpieces. And thanks to the eons of glacial erosion, tiny films of rock flour deposited from the grinding bedrock have given these glacial relics their famously iridescent colors.
At the edge of the Weminuche Wilderness, Crater Lake blends perfectly into a high shelf bordered by the Twilights, three triplet peaks which leave behind a stark and brutal stamp across the landscape. From the start of the trail at Andrews lake, views of Engineer Mountain, Snowden Peak and the dozens of 13ers surrounding Silverton’s secluded valley set an imposing tone to this stunning hike.
Leaving behind the safety of Highway 550, the trail immediately finds solace under a soft blanket of coniferous pines as it gains its first bout of hard altitude. Nearing two miles, the switchbacks yield to easier grades through a series of faults which leave a distinctive wave of raised bands like ridges across the hillside. Where the trees part to views of Engineer Mountain across the highway, the trail looses about 200 feet before finding the forest once again. Now, with almost 700 feet of elevation gain to come, take advantage of this impromptu rest.
As the trail rounds Snowdon Peak out, a dense stretch of woods shield the mountain from view, but at four miles, the trees thin to views of North Twilight Peak, which also marks our destination. Beyond North Twilight Peak, keep an eye out for the runs at Purgatory Ski Resort in the valley behind Potato Hill. From here, the remainder of the hike brings heavy woodlands once again.
Six miles in, at around 11,700 feet, the trail begins to loose ground, making a slow descent to Crater Lake 2/10ths of a mile away.
Like other lakes I’ve visited in this area, a spawn of smaller ponds surround Crater Lake in the nearby woods which deserve exploration.
(From Silverton): At the west end of town, take highway 550 south for 7.2 miles. Turn left onto Andrews Lake Road. The road ends at the trailhead on the shoreline .6 miles down the road.
7.8 miles; 14 min