The access road to this trailhead near Silverton makes this hike a bit less popular than the one to Ice Lakes. The first couple miles are mostly through forest interspersed with waterfalls.
After climbing 1,300′, I found the first lake and wandered around two more while enjoying open alpine tundra views. I wasn’t as awestruck as I’d been when I saw Upper Ice Lake but found it enjoyable none the less.
I continued climbing to connect the Highland Mary Lakes Trail #606 to the Colorado Trail (CT) / Continental Divide Trail (CDT) #813. There were occasional markers and tread but nothing clearly marked. The views became more and more WOW as I climbed.
Notice the HUGE cairn on the top right side of photo. I saw several along the CT/CDT. It appears these are a popular way to mark the CT although unnecessary except in snow, which can be long-lasting in the San Juans.
- Date(s) Hiked: September 20, 2017
- Mileage (per ViewRanger): 7.5-8 miles
- Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): 2,400′
- Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): 10,800′-12,900′
- Trail Conditions:
- Tree obstacles: minimal
- Overgrowth: minimal
- Signage: moderate
- Terrain: a few steep spots but mostly well graded switchbacks on actual trail otherwise fairly easy alpine tundra off-trail hiking; some wet and muddy sections.
- Navigation Skills: minimal for trail sections, moderate for off-trail sections
- Water availability: plentiful below tree line
- Camping availability: moderate below tree line
- Solitude: I only saw one individual fishing at one of the Highland Mary Lakes; otherwise it seemed I had the entire area to myself on the day I was there.
- Bugs: None
- Wildlife: None
- Precip: None this date, but pretty windy
- Temp: Unknown but would guess 40-50
- LNT: Mostly excellent except at trailhead. I found a PB jar near the top of a bald.
- Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)
- Dispersed camping available near trailhead, but beware of mice problems.