Hike to Colorado's Hematite Lake
Home to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in the Rockies, Colorado's San Juan Mountains are loaded with knock your socks off views. Glacial blue lakes, lush forest, gorgeous waterfalls, and towering peaks make them one of the state's most sought after hiking destinations. The trail options are seemingly endless. We'd argue there's no better area in Colorado to explore come late July during the region's wildflower season than the San Juans. One especially scenic stretch runs from Mount Sneffels Wilderness near Ridgway to the Ice Lakes Basin outside of Silverton where some of the most jaw dropping alpine lakes in the country can be found. The hike up to Upper, Middle & Lower Blue Lakes west of Yankee Boy Basin is exceptional. Head south down the Million Dollar Highway to hike out to Ice, Island, and Columbine Lakes near Ophir Pass and you'll debate on relocating. Backpack Windom Peak in the Chicago Basin and you will relocate. Search online for any of these and you'll find a bunch of information.
One search that'll come up with far fewer results is Hematite Lake. A bit of a hidden gem that mostly only locals know about, Hematite sits within its namesake basin at 11,916' a half dozen miles east of downtown Silverton. Its arctic blue water makes it one of the most beautiful lakes in the San Juans and due to its relative obscurity often comes with zero crowds. For now there isn't a listing on AllTrails, but follow the info below and you'll find yourself front and center to one of the area's best kept secrets.
Trailhead elevation 9,660'
Water Lake only
Don't miss The elevated view of the lake from Macomber Peak (mileage to peak not included)
Hiking to Hematite Lake
Parking can be found at a pullout along CR-2 at coordinates 37.833398, -107.601083. There's no trailhead sign, but the trail is easy to spot on the north/opposite side of the road. It begins as a two-track along a grassy slope before narrowing to a singletrack. The trail steepens early on, picking up roughly 1,000' during the first mile while staying left of a nearby gorge. Switchbacks aid in the ascent, but make no mistake, this one takes some effort. The second mile intensifies a bit, accumulating another 1,200' while vast fields of wildflowers adorn the hillside. At your back are King Solomon and Galena Mountains, among others. After 2.2 quad busting miles you'll arrive at the lake.
A large rock outcropping to the right of the trail's end makes for a great spot to relax and take in the view, and getting down to the water's edge is easy. The surrounding cirque towers more than 1,500' above the lake. To put the size of the lake into perspective I sat near the bottom of the lake and took the photo below with a drone.
The photos above were taken during the last week of June and as you can see nearly all of the snow had melted and the lake was completely thawed. When you've had your fill simply retrace your steps back to your vehicle. Those with a glutton for punishment may consider hiking up to Macomber Peak and Tower Peak along the trail left of the lake. We've not done so can't give our opinion, but the Durango Herald published a piece on the route in 2019, and is worth checking out if interested.
If you're looking to camp in the area be sure to check out the Kendall, Anvil, and Golden Horn Campgrounds, all about thirty minutes west and free. If you have time, Animas Forks Ghost Town is pretty cool and of course you have South Mineral Creek Falls, Ice Lake, Island Lake, Columbine Lake, and a slew of gnarly peaks to summit nearby.