The San Juan National Forest is Colorado’s largest mountain range by area. At the southern end of Colorado’s stretch of the Rocky Mountains, the forest is one of the most beautiful in the state; given the vast area, the countless creeks, rivers, and lakes, and the terrific backcountry opportunities, the spot draws tourists from around the world. San Juan National Forest also sports some of the best hiking in the country—the range is home to thirteen of Colorado’s 14,000-footers. To get you started, we have listed our three favorite trails below.
Ice Lake and Island Lake Hike—Hikers will gain around 3,000 feet in elevation on this 8-mile round-trip hike, so be sure to bring plenty of food and water. The trail starts in a subalpine forest and finishes at a stunningly pretty alpine lake. Visitors can enjoy waterfalls, aspen groves, and incredible views of the vast mountain range. This is also an excellent spot for campers—the campsites near the lake make this a great overnight trip.
Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak—At just over eleven miles, this loop is reserved for experts and adventure-seekers only. Hikers will experience a steep 4,800-foot elevation gain up Redcloud Peak, which is one of the state’s 14ers. The eleven miles are well-worth the strain, though—both Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak offer some of the best views in the range.
Blue Lakes Trail Hike to Lower Blue Lake—This is a great hike for beginner and intermediate hikers. At 7.6 miles, it fits the bill for a day-long trip, but with a moderate grade and easy access to Ridgeway, the nearby town, it provides a great introduction to the sport. If you want a longer hike, you can continue to the Upper Blue Lake, which will extend your day by a couple of hours.