girl hiking red mountain 3 in san juan national forest, colorado

Hike Red Mountain 3 in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

HIKE TO: Red Mountain Number 3
TRAIL: Red Mountain Three Road
TRAILHEAD: St Paul Lodge and Hut
MILES: 3.88 miles out and back
TIME: 2 hrs
DATE I WENT: 9/3/22 
DIFFICULTY: easy
ELEVATION: 12,905 ft
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,372 ft
HIKE PERMIT: no
LOCATION: San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Explore the Rainbow Mountains of the US

I’ve been excited to visit Red Mountain in Colorado because it really reminds me of my trip to Rainbow Mountain in Peru back in 2016. I’m a sucker for colorful mountains and a trip to the San Juan Mountains never disappoints.

There are three Red Mountains in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado between Ouray and Silverton and I chose to hike the third as it’s the highest of the three and very beautiful. The San Juan Mountains are what makes colorful Colorado, colorful in my opinion, and although I haven’t explored much of the Colorado Rockies yet, the San Juans are definitely my favorite.

When to go: The road to Red Mountain is one of the highest roads so there may be snow early in the summer season still; I’d aim for July-Sept depending on the snow year, probably even until the first winter storm in Fall (?) but I’m not local and don’t fully understand how the weather out there works.

How to get there: I believe you used to be able to drive up the whole trail as it’s an old mining road, but now you have to hike most of it to access the summit of Red Mountain 3. Drive on Forest Service Road 825 off the Million Dollar Highway for about 0.8 miles to the (abandoned) St. Paul Lodge and Hut. An AWD, non-high clearance small SUV will make it.

The hike to the top of Red Mountain no 3 is a short, easy one, open to all levels. The trail gains 1,372 ft of elevation in just under 2 miles and stays on a wide road the whole time. This hike starts on private property so be respectful of that and pay attention to not miss the junction about a quarter-mile to continue on the Red Mountain Three trail.

From the summit of Red Mountain No 3 (12905 ft), you get 360-degree views of the beautiful mountains. We went for sunrise and caught it just as it crept over the mountains.

Hiking further down into the Red Mountains from the summit is highly recommended. We hiked about half-mile one way, taking a ton of photos along the way, and spent two hours just enjoying it all down there. It can be a bit slippery with all the little rocks going down at first and remember you’re still on a ridgeline the whole time so watch your step and be careful! The perspective down below provides more colorful views for photos and honestly just to enjoy it – I couldn’t believe how much it reminded me of Peru. The early morning was a also bit cloudy and extremely windy which also offered a lot of different views of Red Mountain due to lighting.

Hiking back up to Red Mountain 3 summit so we can hike out and back to Ouray for my favorite hot chocolate and cookie.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comment section below 🙂

Please don’t forget to practice LEAVE NO TRACE.

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