hematite lake trail colorado san juan mountains hike

Hematite Lake Trail in the San Juan Mountains

HIKE TO: Hematite Lake
TRAILHEAD: Howardsville, see below
MILES: 3.4 miles
TIME: 2.5 hrs
DATE I WENT: 9/3/22
DIFFICULTY: strenuous
ELEVATION: 11,911 ft
PARKING: dirt pull out
LOCATION: San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Hematite Lake Trail in Silverton, CO

Hematite lake is a beautiful green turquoise alpine lake in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. It is a short but steep hike to Hematite Basin, a geological formation known for its high concentration of hematite which is a mineral that gives the surrounding rocks a distinctive reddish color. It is surrounded by Macomber Peak (12,825 ft) and Tower Mountain (13,514 ft).

Hematite Lake resembles nearby Island Lake in the San Juan Mountains, but with much fewer crowds.

During peak wildflower season, typically July through August, there are wildflowers along this trail. For our early September hike, the weather was still perfect for hiking and you’re sure to work up a sweat on this trail.

Where is Hematite Lake located?

Hematite Lake is in the San Juan Mountains, 7 miles east of Silverton, Colorado. The nearest town on the map is Howardsville, CO but there’s not much here, and the trail starts by the Animas River.

What is the elevation of Hematite Lake?

Hematite Lake sits at 11,911 ft (3,630 m). The trailhead starts at 9,673 ft.

Hematite Lake Trailhead

There is a small dirt pullout 0.2 miles from the bridge as you enter Howardsville from Silverton, CO. It is on the right side of the road (CR 2).

hematite lake trail in silverton co, san juan mountains hike

Hematite Lake Hike Report

We started this hike at 2:15 pm in the afternoon, after spending the morning exploring Red Mountain #3. Because we knew both trails were short, we knew we could pack them in on the same day. If you choose to do the same, just make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore and enjoy the destinations.

The Hematite Lake Trail is short, but really steep, gaining roughly 2,000 ft in a little over 1.5 miles. It took us 1.5 hrs to hike to the lake and an hour to hike back out, leaving plenty of time for our next drive.

From the dirt parking lot, you will see a faint trail across the street – that’s the Hematite Lake Trail. You will also see an old, rustic, abandoned car to your left early on which is another sign you are on the correct trail.

The trail starts loosely follows along Hematite Gulch with a very gradual incline on a dirt trail, exposed to the sun and wind, for about a quarter mile before the real elevation gain starts.

Always take the obvious path if you’re unsure which way to go. A lot of this part of the trail is along tall bushes, shrubs, and tree coverage, but overall, the trail is well-maintained and clear.

The average slope of the Hematite Lake Trail is 24° and the trail tops out at 11,934 ft just before you drop down to the lake. From this point, you will get a stunning view of the entire Hematite Basin including the lake and surrounding Macomber Peak and Tower Peak.

If you’re feeling adventurous, scramble around the lake up to the left and you will find an old abandoned mine. The route to the right side of the lake is flatter and easier to navigate, while the left side of the lake may require some class 3 scrambling using your hands and feet with some sketchier portions to get around to the opposite side of the lake.

Choose your own adventure or simply relax by the lake before heading back out the same way.

Gear I used for hiking to an alpine lake in Colorado

hematite lake colorado gps

Where to Stay Near Hematite Lake

Things to do near Silverton, CO

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