Backpacking Colorado: Highland Mary Lakes

Backpacking Colorado: Highland Mary Lakes

Thanks for all the new website love and sorry to neglect the blog this month a little! I think I’ll be back on a regular schedule now. To start, lemme tell you about a gorgeous overnight backpacking trip we took earlier in September in southern Colorado …

Trip Name: Highland Mary Lakes/CDT/Cunningham Gulch Loop

Area: Weminuche Wilderness of San Juan National Forest in Colorado

Total Mileage: 10 miles

Trailhead Elevation: 10,700 feet

Highest Elevation: 12,550 feet

Alpine lakes are just about my favorite highlight of backpacking trips. There’s nothing better than hoofing it up a trail and coming upon the scenic perfection of a serene and reflective body of water crowned by mountains and sky. Our September weekend trip took us to several of the Highland Mary and Verde Lakes that are above 12,000 feet in the San Juans.

Normally, Justin and I are solo on our backpacking ventures because believe it or not, very few of our friends are into the whole poop in the woods and sleep on the ground thing. But, we were able to hook up with two fellow outdoor enthusiasts for this trip: BJ & Clara. We met BJ & Clara on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. They were northbounders and we were southbounders and we literally talked in passing for 10 minutes tops. I found Clara’s blog post-trail and realized how much we all had in common. Not only were they fellow thru hikers, but full-time RVers and nomads! We’ve been friends ever since and “run” into each other quite often around the country.

Although the Highland Mary Lakes loop hike was not long in mileage and many people do it as a day hike, it packs its punch with the 1500+ ft of elevation gain crammed into a 3-mile section. We followed the Highland Mary Lakes trail and camped at Verde Lake, then looped back to a piece of the Continental Divide Trail and Cunningham Gulch.

I’m so glad we chose to turn this into a backpacking trip, so we could really take our time and soak in the surroundings. It was quite chilly (and even hailed on us), but that’s Colorado in the fall! Once up to the lakes, there’s 360 degrees of views dripping with richness. I particularly enjoyed our unobstructed campsite views of the Grenadier Range and its distinctive pyramid-shaped peaks.


3 responses to “Backpacking Colorado: Highland Mary Lakes”

  1. Shayna Muckerheide says:


  2. Mary says:

    How funny, I have a friend who just hiked there. Love the name. I really would like to go there!

  3. Jamie La Vigne says:

    Looks beautiful!ill add that to our list of backpacking trips. Nice fall colors too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *