Southwest Colorado Peaks

Southwest Colorado Peaks

Located in the Southwest region of the Rocky Mountains, Durango is surrounded by the gorgeous peaks of the San Juan Mountains. These Southwest Colorado peaks and mountain ranges are just one of the reasons why we love calling Durango home. 


Kennebec Peak

This range is located to the northwest of Durango, in Hesperus/Mayday. County Road 124 will guide you through La Plata Canyon offering campsites, and access to the La Plata River as well as many of the surrounding peaks, including Kennebec. Some of the other well known peaks in this area include Sharkstooth, Diorite, Snowstorm, Gibbs, and Baldy. Taylor Lake is found at the top of the road alongside “The Notch” which requires extreme caution as the road drops off! The views are expansive looking east towards Durango and Hesperus.


Engineer Mountain

Perhaps one of the most recognizable landmarks in our area is Engineer Mountain, which becomes visible as you near Purgatory Ski Resort, just 20 miles north of downtown. The summit is just shy of 13,000 ft. putting it above treeline which becomes apparent at the summit. Hiking and biking can be enjoyed here with the main trailhead beginning at Coalbank Pass. You’ll pass through an abundance of wildflower fields in the spring and summertime into the top section which is a large scree field with loose rock pieces. The views overlook south towards Durango and north towards Silverton providing a great lay of the land.

Needles & Twilight Peaks

On the east side of Highway 550 N, this group of peaks creates a stunning mountain backdrop. Composed of multiple Needles and Twilight Peaks, the alpenglow is truly stunning near dusk. These peaks are hikable with many small alpine lakes hidden throughout the landscape. Crater Lake is often used as a basecamp with day hikes that take you to the various summits. In the foreground on the northern end of this range, you can see Potato Hill, commonly known as Spud Mountain, which offers a great day hike to Potato Lake.

Chicago Basin

While this is not a peak, this infamous basin destination wouldn’t be possible without the surrounding and well known peaks. It’s nestled primarily in between Aztec Mountain, Grizzly Peak, North Eolus, and Mt. Eolus with many others just beyond those. The most common way hikers and backpackers access Chicago Basin is via the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which stops at the Needleton Flagstop, a trailhead for the basin. Lakes such as Twin Lakes, Columbine Lake, and Hazel Lake are in this vicinity too. Famous peaks such as Sunlight, Windom, Greystone, and White Dome are also connected through this range. Vestal Basin is another well-traveled area on the northside of these mountains.



What is a 14er?

A 14er (fourteener) is common slang for a mountain or peak that’s elevation exceeds 14,000 ft. Climbing these is an adventure and is bragged about as “bagging a 14er”! The popular Collegiate Peaks (Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Mt. Colombia, Mt. Oxford, and five others)  and Pikes Peak are all part of Colorado’s 58 14ers. 


Southwest Colorado 14ers

Colorado is subdivided into seven ranges including Front, Tenmile, Mosquito, Sawatch, Elk Mountains, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the San Juan Mountains (which is our area). Mt. Eolus, North Eolus, Sunlight (just one foot over 14,000!), and Windom Peaks are all categorized as Colorado 14ers and make up three of the San Juan Mountain’s 14. 


Handies Peak is considered one of the easiest 14ers to summit as the 4-wheel drive road gets you closer to the top than many others, making the hike shorter. The peak is just northeast of Silverton, CO with a summit elevation of 14,048 ft. above sea level. Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak, and Wetterhorn Peak are all in the same area alongside Uncompahgre Peak which is the 6th tallest in the state reaching 14,309 ft. When driving from Silverton to Telluride on the San Juan Scenic Byway, you will circumnavigate Mt. Sneffels, a 14,150 foot peak. Southwest of Telluride are the conjoined Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak, and El Diente Peak in the Lizard Head Wilderness. Finally, San Luis Peak is the farthest from Durango just north of Creede, Colorado. The Colorado Trail passes by this 14,014 ft. peak.


Silverton, Colorado

Nestled in between many mountains and peaks, Kendall Mountain is of the most famous and recognizable. It greets you as you enter the small mountain town via car or train. You can’t miss the 13,455 ft. mountain on the southwest side of town. This mountain is a gateway to many alpine lakes and adventures between Silverton and the surrounding area.


Conservation & Safety

“Leave No Trace” is the golden rule in the backcountry: please pick up and take your trash out with you, and leave wildlife and other natural items such as flowers and rocks as is. Researching the area and trail before exploring is important, as well as preparing for quick weather, especially during the summer months. Most trails that are managed by the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management provide log books at trailheads so they can track the users in that area. Another tip is to let someone not in your group know when you are headed out on a trip and when you return, in case anything goes awry. 


Locals, visitors, and wildlife enjoy these stunning mountain peaks in Southwest Colorado. We hope you fall in love with the surrounding landscape and that we can be part of your Durango journey. Our favorite publications for our area’s trails include the Hiking Trails of Southwestern Colorado, Fifth Edition book, online resources provided by Durango Trails, and trail maps such as the National Geographic Map 144: Durango and Cortez. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about Durango and the many fun things to do in the area.

Work With Us

The Durango Team has decades of real estate experience in the Durango, Colorado area. Let us help you buy or sell your Southwest Colorado home.

Follow Us on Instagram