View Cart800-642-5389 Menu

Alpine Lakes Traverse

Best of the Weminuche
November 8, 2016
Million Dollar Trek
November 8, 2016

Remote Backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness

This 6 day 5 night backpacking adventure is a trip that only The Local Experts – San Juan Mountain Guides – with its over a quarter century of experience – can offer. We take you into the highest, hidden, and most beautiful alpine lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. You will be traveling and camping in areas that very few people enjoy the privilege of knowing that they even exist, let alone have visited. If you have an adventurous spirit and love camping by pristine alpine lakes below breathtaking peaks, then this is the trip for you.

This is the true definition of “off-the-beaten path” and represents years of knowledge and information about the best routes through the heart of Colorado’s finest wilderness area. You’ll see all the classic basins in the Weminuche Wilderness such as Vestal Basin, Stormy Gulch, Leviathan Lake, Jagged Mountain and much much more!

Itinerary Note

The Alpine Lakes Traverse trekking trip is offered from Monday – Saturday so that participants have the opportunity to travel to Ouray the weekend prior to the start of the trip and then have Sunday to travel home, enjoy Ouray, or however you might like to use that day. Either way, this 6 day trip is exactly the trip you’ve been looking for to experience one of Colorado’s iconic backcountry destinations!

Private/Custom Trips

We can also offer this trip and itinerary on a Private/Custom basis. You choose your dates and group size and we’ll customize the experience according to your specs!

Available Dates

By Private Arrangement

June through early October


$1899 per person

rexerNo Hidden Fees

  • Guiding and instruction with an IFMGA/AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
  • All group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, fuel etc.)
  • Water purification system
  • Meal packages available for and additional per person fee


Alpine Lakes Traverse Trekking Itinerary

Day 0

We meet at the San Juan Mountain Guides’ office in the afternoon or early evening in order to go over equipment, food, and logistics issues for the following morning. If you cannot make this meeting we can still make arrangements to take care of these details on the following morning.

Day 1

We will meet at the San Juan Mountain Guides’ office at 0730 and then proceed to Molas Pass, where our trek will begin. After adjusting our packs and preparing to hike we begin by descending the “45 switchback trail” down towards the Animas River. After crossing the Animas via a footbridge, we’ll continue hiking up Elk creek to a camp just beyond the “Beaver Ponds” along the Elk Creek (Colorado) Trail.

Day 2

Today we will hike up into the inspiring Vestal Basin which is home to the Grenadier Range, and a number of inspiring peaks like Arrow Peak, Vestal Peak, and the Trinity Peaks. As we move up higher into the basin we’ll work our way towards Trinity Pass, which will allow us to cross over into Stormy Gulch. Impressive views of Storm King Peak and the Silex are the reward for ascending this pass. Finally, we’ll descend into Stormy Gulch and our camp for the night.

Day 3

Today we will ascend and descent three high mountain passes passing nearly irresistible campsites by in upper stormy gulch where we will have lunch at Balsam Lake at nearly 12000.  After lunch we will cross up and over a high pass and far down into the upper reaches of Leviathan Basin and set up camp at the large green emerald that is Leviathan Lake.

Day 4

Right out of camp we will begin a long climb up a spectacular side basin over a saddle into the hinterlands of the famous “noname drainage”, passing over Jagged Col along the way.  After our descent a short climb brings us to another high mountain gem of a lake directly below the cirque of the seven high mountain peaks that guard the entrance to our final destination – Ruby Lake.

Day 5

While our final camp will be made at the stunning Ruby Lake, this days hike is short enough that those who are interested in hiking up one of the state highest 13ers (Turret Peak) will have time to enjoy this brilliant side trip.  Although there is nothing technical about this summit it still possesses everything desirable – solitude, beauty, and commanding heights.

Day 6

Our final day’s hike winds down the primitive Ruby Lake trail and back down to the Animas River and eventually onto the Purgatory Flats trail where our shuttle back to Ouray will await! What a trip!!


Alpine Lakes Traverse Trekking Equipment List

Duffel BagDescriptionGuide's Pick
1 - 2 Large, durable bags for oragnizing and transporting your gear during airline travel etc.
BackpackDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Osprey Atmos AG™ 50 features Osprey’s Anti-Gravity™ suspension system for quick drying ventilation and all-day comfort. This pack is well suited for weekend excursions or quick overnight forays when you are toting less than 40 pounds.
ThermosDescriptionGuide's Pick
Coffee is the lifeblood of champions. We highly encourage the consumption of coffee on our programs. The darker the better.
Water BottlesDescriptionGuide's Pick
We recommend wide mouth Nalgene (or similar) water bottles for the majority of our programs. Two 1 liter bottles is the standard for days in the mountains.
Bottle InsulatorsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Insulating water bottle parkas are recommended in the winter months, for ice climbing or cold weather alpine trips.
Stuff SacksDescriptionGuide's Pick
Stuff sacks are a great way to organize your gear in your pack and help to keep things tidy in a variety of ways. A great addition to any of our programs.
Personal FoodDescriptionGuide's Pick
Lunch begins when breakfast ends and ends when dinner begins. Bring what you like to eat and consider the length, relative difficulty, weight, and other factors when deciding what to bring in the mountains with you. A variety is always best. Don't be afraid of Mr. T.
SunglassesDescriptionGuide's Pick
A good pair of wrap around sunglasses are an essential item for all of our trips. When the sun shines brightly on fresh snow in the mountains your eyes will thank you for a quality pair of shades. Looking good is important too.
SunscreenDescriptionGuide's Pick
Essential for all of our programs. SPF 30 would be our minimum recommendation. Typically a 4 oz. bottle will suffice but consider trip length when deciding how much to pack.
Lip BalmDescriptionGuide's Pick
Lip balm is important to bring on all trips. SPF 15 or higher is recommended.
HeadlampDescriptionGuide's Pick
A headlamp is recommended for all of our programs and is an essential piece of equipment you will use in a variety of circumstances. Most LED type headlamps will do but we recommend the Black Diamond Storm for its versatility.
First Aid KitDescriptionGuide's Pick
An excellent investment for all of our programs. Our guides always carry a comprehensive medical kit but it's nice to have your own as well.
Small KnifeDescriptionGuide's Pick
A small knife is an indispensable tool to carry with you in the mountains. We like the Spatha knife for its size, weight, versatility, and ability to clip onto a harness.
Digital CameraDescriptionGuide's Pick
While phones these days offer excellent quality, nothing beats the reliability of a dedicated digital camera. You'll be glad you brought it and your guide will make sure to help capture the moment of you being awesome.
SocksDescriptionGuide's Pick
Synthetic socks area must for all outdoor activities. Select a pair that fits well, is warm, and is comfortable. Bring 2-3 pairs depending on the type of trip.
Base Layer TopDescriptionGuide's Pick
Choosing the right base layer really makes a difference in comfort, moisture-wicking, and the balance between cool and warm at the right time and in the right places. The Outdoor Research Echo Hoody also offers good sun protection.
Base Layer BottomDescriptionGuide's Pick
Similar to the base layer top. These are wear all the time in all conditions base layer pants. A must have for alpine and ice climbing trips and objectives.
Mid Weight TopDescriptionGuide's Pick
A midlayer for anything from ski tours to alpine ascents, the CoEfficient Hoody features Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency fleece with a gridded interior for increased wicking performance and added breathability. The under-the-helmet hood and full-length zipper let you regulate temperature on the go, so you don’t find yourself overheating a half hour into the day. A slim cut helps the CoEfficient Hoody fit comfortably under your shell, and with a redsigned, trim fit, this layer takes up little space in your pack.
Soft Shell PantsDescriptionGuide's Pick
These pants dig climbs that take them a few hundred feet off the deck. The tough but stretchy, breathable but wind-resistant Ferrosi fabric stays cool during long approach hikes, moves with you while talus wrangling and high-stepping on the sharp end, and blocks wind during long hours of belaying up high.
Insulated ParkaDescriptionGuide's Pick
Pack it for those days where you need just a touch of down insulation, or on those cold days on the chairlift when an extra layer might be crucial. Our new hooded version of the Filament has the same design as the popular hood-less version and a DWR-treated shell of ultralight 10D Pertex® Quantum GL keeps moisture away from premium 800-fill down inside.
Insulated VestDescriptionGuide's Pick
Same spirit, same guts, and same award-winning hybrid-mapped design of the Cathode Hooded Jacket, minus the sleeves and hood. An insulated vest is an optional item on our programs but we do think vests offer excellent flexible layering options in a variety of circumstances, weather conditions, and trip types.
Shell JacketDescriptionGuide's Pick
Our Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal “Gear of the Year” award-winning storm shell is engineered for fast-and-light alpine climbs and all-day backcountry tours. You need at minimum either a soft shell jacket or hard shell jacket for local Ouray based winter courses and programs.
Built for flash-storm protection, the 100% waterproof, super-breathable Helium II weighs an incredibly light 6.4 ounces. An ultra-compressible piece you’ll never leave behind, it’s so light and packs down so small you’ll forget it’s clipped to your harness until you throw it on to ward off a sudden mid-route downpour.
Shell PantsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Waterproof, breathable and lightweight, the GORE-TEX® Foray Pants provide dependable rain protection and shrug off the wear-and-tear of the trail and cityscape alike.
Warm HatDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Booster’s reversible design lets you choose. The soft yarn blend will provide a cozy sanctuary throughout winter’s chill.
Baseball CapDescriptionGuide's Pick
A required item on the majority of our programs, a baseball cap helps to keep harmful sun off your face. The Radar Pocket cap is packable, durable, and looks great!
Lightweight GlovesDescriptionGuide's Pick
Updated for touchscreen compatibility, the StormTracker Sensor Gloves are equally at home alpine climbing, ski touring or ice climbing. Low-profile GORE® WINDSTOPPER®. Soft Shell fabric deflects biting gusts, and a tricot lining retains valuable heat.
Balaclava or BuffDescriptionGuide's Pick
Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, Original BUFF® headwear is the product that started the multifunctional headwear revolution. At its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. We recommend the BUFF for all of our programs as a multi-purpose insulation piece and trendy headgear!
Climbing BootsDescriptionGuide's Pick
Waterproof Gore-Tex® abrasion resistant polyester uppers with a patented TPU Thermo Tech Application™. Extremely durable and lightweight 3D Flex™ insert for excellent ankle mobility Vibram®. Mulaz outsole with a technical edging platform and aggressive rear lugs for superior traction
Adjustable Trekking PolesDescriptionGuide's Pick
This is an optional item on our programs. However, a good pair of trekking poles is a worthy piece of gear to have with you for long approaches or treks through the mountains. There are many added benefits to trekking poles. The new BD Distance series poles are light, collapsible, and adjustable.
Sleeping PadDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season mattress is lightweight, durable, extremely warm, and the ultimate solution to year-round backcountry comfort. Stable construction and 2.5-inch thickness offer greater comfort for a full night of sleep, so you won't feel the uneven, rough terrain beneath you.
Sleeping BagDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30 Degree Sleeping Bag large cut sleeping bag for bigger folks or those seeking plenty of space. Have a fear of being closed in or perhaps a wide set of shoulders? This 850+ down fill sleeping bag has a 64" shoulder girth and 39" foot girth. Lay back and enjoy being wrapped in soft, fluffy down on nights down to 30°F.

Training & Follow Up Climbs

As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.

Before Your Trip

In order to successfully carry a 35 lb. pack up to 7 miles a day, endurance is key. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.

For trekking trips in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness you should be ready for:

  • Hiking up to 6-7 miles per day with up to a 30 lb pack at altitudes between 8,000′ – 11,000′
  • Wilderness travel

Follow Up Climbs


Ouray, Colorado: Getting Here

Ouray is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, hot springing, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip.  The SJMG office is located at 1710 Main St. Ouray, CO.

plane-icon The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose Regional Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 40 minute drive from our office. Tellurides offers a shuttle as well.

suv-icon Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray.

  • Durango, CO: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Albuquerque, NM: 5.5 hours
  • Denver, CO: 6 hours
  • Slat Lake City, UT: 6 hours



Ouray has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 970-946-0713 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip!

Program Policies

Registration & Cancellation

Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.


  • Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
  • Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, fuel etc.)
  • Water Purification system


  • Transportation to Ouray, CO
  • Hotel costs before, during, or after the program
  • Guide gratuity
  • Trip Food (meal packages available for additional fee)
  • Personal hiking/climbing clothing
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
  • Costs associated with weather delays or other variables beyond the control of San Juan Mountain Guides



Book This Trip!

We Offer Online Registration

  1. Click on Book This Trip
  2. Select your Program dates
  3. Enter your Info and Payment


Or, call 800.642.5389 to register