Based in Durango, Colorado, Trails 2000 is a
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Engineer Mountain is a favorite hike or ride that is well marked and in close proximity to Durango, making it quite popular in the summertime. Engineer Mountain is the prominent “double” cone which can be seen when driving northbound on Hwy 550 beyond Purgatory in the San Juan National Forest. It is a fun and challenging mountain with awesome panoramic views in all directions from the summit, since it’s nearly 13,000’ and stands alone. The most direct ascent starts at Coal Bank Pass on Hwy 550 and goes up the Pass Creek Trail. While only 4.4 miles round trip, it’s considered a difficult climb due to the narrow ridge, loose talus, and the exposed crux move. Gain is 2,378 feet. The hike climbs up moderate switchbacks and then gradually climbs up to the base of Engineer Mountain. Much of it falls on the heavily timbered northern aspect of the mountain, and patches of snow may linger in mid-summer. Toward the top, the trail breaks out into beautiful alpine meadows at the base of the peak, offering sweeping views of the Needles Mountains and Animas Valley. This hike is great in July/August when wild Columbine, Orchids, Primrose, Geraniums, Coneflowers are abundant – and the views are incredible.
Pass Trail: Pass Trail is a great mountain bike ride or hike for most everyone. Climb up the Pass Creek Trail a couple miles to the base of Engineer Mountain. Turn left where the Pass Creek Trail meets the Engineer Mountain Trail just above timberline and head back down the face of Engineer through spruce, aspen, and meadow. Rejoin Hwy 550 just below the truck ramp and pedal 4 quick miles back up to your car. For a hiking variation, hike up to the base of Engineer mountain, and go for the summit, or just turn around and go back the way you came at Picnic rock (you’ll know it when you see it). Bring a lunch and have a picnic.
Have you ever wondered what gave Engineer its unique shape and why many of the other mountains have such steep cliffs? Well, this involves a little bit of geology study of the area. During the Pleistocene era (approximately 2, 588, 00 to 11,700 years ago) the most recent episodes of repeated glaciations took place along the Animas River Valley. The glaciers began their formation from Silverton all the way through Durango and they were the driving force behind the geography we see here today. The ice was more than two thousand feet thick in places but Engineer Mountain was high enough to stick out and become what geologist call a “nunatak’. As the glacier slowly plowed its way to the south it smashed into the mountain carving out the tall cliffs and shaping the sides as it went along. What we see today is the aftermath of what the ice and water did ages ago. There has also been some questions regarding how the mountain got its name and that involves a bit of a history study. Starting in 1873 the Army Corps of Engineers began a geographic survey of the area for mapping and headed by Lieutenant E.H. Ruffner. The Lieutenants topographic assistant H.G. Prout was the first person to ascend to the mountain’s 12,968-foot summit. Prout originally wanted to name the peak “Mount Ruffner” but he declined and it was decided to name the mountain in honor of the Army Corps of Engineers, to which it still holds as its name today.
Head North on Hwy 550 past Purgatory Resort toward Silverton. Coal Bank Pass is 35 miles north of Durango, 13.5 miles south of Silverton, on Hwy 550. Slow down after mile marker 56 (it’s between mm 56 and 57), and you will see a parking area and restroom facility on the east side of the road at Coal Bank Pass with a pull off spot with restroom facilities (but don’t park there). Instead, there is a dirt road to the west which is close to the trail head (opposite the rest area) with a small parking area; it is hard to see, so slow down. You will see the trailhead heading north from the parking lot; start there. Make sure you have plenty of water, warm layers, and rain gear. It should take 4 hours to casually hike up and back.
Visit the Trail Conditions Report for current conditions and photos.
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