Sneffels Highline

A Hike Above Telluride

The Plan

The hikes I’ve done in the San Juans have been absolutely stunning so far and the author of the guide book I’m reading says Sneffels Highline is his favorite so I can’t wait to check it out!

The Adventure

The Ascent (via Jud Wiebe, Deep Creek, Sneffels Highline)

The street parking near the Jud Wiebe trailhead is limited to 2 hours so I park in the free skier parking and walk the half mile over to the trailhead.

When I reach the trailhead, I see a sign that says there are active mountain lions in the area. This is my first time hiking an “active” mountain lion trail alone. I don’t know what the protocol is for mountain lions, but from watching the Parent Trap I recall they don’t like loud noises. Movies are reliable sources of information, right? I pull out all the stops and then some, hoping I get a few things right. Bear bell is on and released from the magnet, trekking poles are extended and in hand, Lauren Daigle music is on full blast, backcountry whistle is clipped where I can get at it, and my knife is in easy access pocket. Don’t mess with this. 

The Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail starts out steep through a pine forest then an aspen forest.

At 1.3 miles, I turn left onto the Mill Creek toward Deep Creek Trail, then very quickly arrive at a second junction and continue right onto the Sneffels Highline Trail.

On a particularly steep switchback I glance over my shoulder to check out the view and spot Lizard Head and Wilson Peak across the valley. 

At 8:15 am, I’m out of the trees and breathe a little easier. Mountain lions prefer the trees, right? Hopefully I’m in the clear.

I enjoy some time walking in the sunshine and then the meadow ends and the trail dips back into the trees. Eek.

The little yellow flowers are abundant along this trail yet. Flowers in this area have sure stuck around late this year!

Wildflowers still in bloom

After two rounds through the Look Up Child album, I let the music stop and enjoy the nature sounds. Birds chirping. Leaves rustling. The occasional plane overhead.

The trail continues up for what feels like miles (because it is). I sporadically check my GPS location only to get discouraged when the dot doesn’t move more than 1/8”. 

At 9:15 I’ve got 1000 ft of elevation gain to go!

At 9:30 I’m pretty sure I hear a gunshot. Or a rock slide. We’ll go with rock slide.

At 9:45 I leave the trees for good and upon entering the basin, I spot the switchbacks up to the saddle which is the 4.5 mile mark. 

I perch up on a rock and eat a snack. Gonna need the fuel for this last bit of incline!  

Sneffels Highline - Pack Basin
Pack Basin

Feeling refreshed, I set off at 10 to conquer what’s left of this climb. 

I reach the saddle a little before 10:30. Mt. Emma’s jagged peak looms above. 

Looking down on Telluride from the saddle

The Descent (via Mill Creek, Deep Creek, Jud Wiebe)

I saunter around on the saddle for 30 minutes and then start making my way down the other side into Mill Creek Basin. 

The descent starts with switchbacks through a boulder field. 

After the boulders, the switch backs continue down and around the basin. I’m surprised to find a few stretches of trail are still grass, yet to be worn down to dirt by hikers. That’s rare in Colorado!

Sneffels Highline
The boulder field

I cross over a little stream and then a bigger one. The meadow rolls on and the grasshoppers are plentiful. One dive bombs at my face.

Mill Creek Basin
Wilson Peak, El Diente, and Mt. Wilson in the distance

Pine fragrance fills the air as I reach the end of the meadow. 

The trail curves around the side of the mountain and then enters back into the forest, a reprieve from the hot sun. 

Just before the aspen grove I see the telluride airport. The runway sure lives up to its reputation, lining the cliff’s edge. 

In the aspens, the switchbacks steepen and I quickly lose some elevation. 

I approach the junction with Deep Creek and head left toward Mill Creek.

The aspens are replaced by pine trees and I turn around for one last look at the grove. I wish I could see how lit this place will be in a few weeks when the Aspen leaves turn gold. 

Leaving the aspen grove

As the forest thickens, I soak in my final views of the 14er cluster across the valley. 

At 1:45 pm, I reach the branch off for Mill Creek and go left toward Jud Weibe, following the trail across a couple bridges. 

A year later, the trail wraps around a corner and Telluride comes into view again. I reach the junction with the Sneffels Highline trail and go right, then quickly meet the Jud Weibe and take another right. 

I arrive at the trailhead at 2:50 pm and my car in another 15 minutes.

Post-Hike Refuel

I’m seriously craving some iced coffee after hiking in the hot weather so I stop in town at Coffee Cowboy and get their Iced Annie Oakley (DF caramel, cinnamon, and almond milk). It may be the best iced coffee I’ve ever had. Seriously.

After guzzling down the coffee, I make my way to Smugglers where I order the House Honey Cured Bacon Burger on a lettuce wrap with a side of sweet potato fries. It’s every bit as good as it sounds.

The Stats

Stats (per Strava, check out the stats here and here—the app stopped tracking so it’s split in two):

  • Distance: 15.83 mi
  • Elevation gain: 4,457 ft
  • Total time: 8 hr 15 min
  • Moving time: 6 hr 30 min
  • Average speed: 2.4 mi/h

The Details

  • Trailhead: Free Skier Parking/Jud Wiebe Trailhead
  • Car driven: Subaru Impreza
  • Day of the week hiked: Thursday
  • Trailhead arrival time: 6:53 am
  • Parking: Free Skier Parking
  • Restroom at the trailhead? No, but there are some at the skier parking
  • Crowd count: No one on the way up. 3 people on the saddle. Several on the way down. Lots on the lower portion of Jud Wiebe when returning to town.

Gear Recommendations

Trekking poles recommended? Yes! This is a great trail for trekking poles.

Shoe verdict: Hiking boots or trail running shoes would work.

Curious to see what other adventures I’m getting into during my 5 weeks living in Montrose, CO? Check them out here!

Other adventures in the area:

What's your favorite hike in Telluride? Leave a comment below!

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Sneffels Highline | Dani's Drive



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