Bear Creek Canyon to Engineer Pass

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Distance

13.3 Miles

Route Type

Out and Back

Difficulty

Difficult

Ascent

4,900 ft.

Highest Elevation

12,800ft.

Overview

A steep, thin, and remote route to the top of Engineer Pass with no cell service.

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Bear Creek Canyon to Engineer Pass Walkthrough

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How to Run Bear Creek Canyon to Engineer Pass

Park just after the tunnel, a short drive south of Ouray on 550 on the Million Dollar Highway. Walk across the highway and start the trail just behind the official sign for Bear Creek Trail. Cross over the top of the tunnel and continue to follow the trail. It will switchback up a rocky trail for the first mile, with precipitous drops just off the trails. Beware, if you do not like heights, this trail is not for you.

After the first mile, you will enter the canyon. The trail becomes 3-4 feet wide at times with vertical drops of many hundreds of feet to the side.

At mile 2.3, you’ll pass by remnants of the Grizzly Bear mine. At mile 4.2 is remnants of Yellow Jacket Mine, and a partially standing mining cabin. Around mile 2.5, the drops taper out and the terrain becomes a bit less steep off to the side.

You’ll pass through some meadows and flatter sections of trail shortly before reaching Yellow Jacket Mine near mile 4.5. Within the next half mile from Yellow Jacket mine is a couple of streams you’ll need to cross. Your feet will likely get wet.

At mile 4.7 you’ll reach a faint intersection, where the trail splits backward to the left. A sign marks this area. Continue straight the way you were going to continue through the middle of the canyon. You’ll cross a couple of stream again at mile 5.1. In both cases, the trail picks up immediately on the other shoreline.

After the second stream, the route can become more interpretive. A thin trail exists, but if any snow covers it is easy to lose. You’ll quickly rise above treeline at this point. Mile 5.6/11,600ft is treeline and you’ll be presented with a beautiful alpine tundra with clear views of Engineer Pass ahead, with the Ouray skyline behind you. Follow the faint grassy single track upward to Engineer Pass. Practice Leave No Trace ethics and do not build or add to cairns. Descend back the same way.

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