The drive from Durango Mountain Resort to Silverton is beautiful and it would be a shame not to stop along the way to visit the mountains, up-close and personal. There are several good hikes along the way which would appeal to travellers of any ability and/or agility.
The summit of Coal Bank Pass (el. 10,640 ft. /3243 m.) offers two different trails. At the summit itself, beyond the road and the comfort station, there is an accessible, paved, short loop, offering handicapped visitors the opportunity to experience the peace and views of the mountaintops while escaping from the highway.
A short ways past the Pass Summit parking lot, there is a turn-off to a parking area for Engineer Mountain Trail. This trail, one of the prettiest in Colorado, winds around the hillside forest until breaking out onto a mountain prairie with an excellent view of Engineer Peak and the surrounding valleys. It’s a fairly short, moderate, 6-mile round trip scramble that offers magnificent wildflowers in the summer and suburb fall color in the fall. The hardiest can attempt to scale Engineer Peak. Don’t forget, however, that it is a mountain hike and the weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared… take plenty of water, layer your clothes for warmth and include some protein bars or trail mix, and a rain jacket. I once got caught on this trail without a rain jacket in a hail storm. I was feeling bad until two girls came running by in flipflops and tank tops. Be prepared.
If Engineer Mountain sounds too challenging, continue down 550 to the bottom of Coal Bank Pass. After passing Cascade Creek, look for a sign to Old Lime Creek Road. A short 3 ½ mile drive will bring you to the Spud Lake trailhead from which you can make the easy 2-mile round-trip trek to Spud Lake. If you miss all of these hikes, you’ll still have the opportunity to picnic at Andrews Lake or Molas Lake before beginning your descent into Silverton. Whatever you choose, don’t let the opportunity to commune with the mountains pass you by.