Hawn Mountain hike: stairway to heaven

Hawn Mountain hike: stairway to heaven

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Fall has not yet subsided into winter, and if you're still out hiking in Telluride, there's one last trail you should check out: Hawn Mountain. Anyone who has ever tried to walk over a talus slope or a scree field, putting their ankles in jeopardy on the shifting rocks and sometimes ending up on their backsides, will appreciate the sheer genius of the Hawn Mountain trail. Gray Head developer and longime local Steve Catsman designed this and all 16 miles of the Gray Head trails, as well as the Keystone Gorge Trail on the other side of the Telluride Valley. The trail’s switchbacks pass through ferrous rock, sharp pieces of grey and rust-colored granite. But instead of picking your way through the stones, take the stairs—an intricate staircase has been fashioned from the rocks, giving hikers a firm footing over which to pass through the scree field.

The stairway is truly amazing, maybe even as spectacular as the vantage points you reach on the hike. Doug Wolfe and his crew helped construct the rock route, and Wolfe said it took him a good two weeks to stand up without pain after it was completed.

The hike is open courtesy of the Gray Head development, and part of the route passes over private land. Because Gray Head has a no-fence policy to protect the herds of elk and deer that populate the 885 acres, please respect the residents’ wishes to safeguard the animals and leave your dogs at home. IMG_0708

Hawn Mountain starts high up, and goes higher. The trail starts 4.6 miles above Telluride Regional Airport on Last Dollar Road. The loop is five miles long, with an elevation gain of about 1,700 feet, and it reaches nearly 11,000 feet. The top of the trail traverses a ridge and gives a great panoramic view, and there is even a rock bench from which to enjoy it. There are lots of great trails on the high, northwest side of the San Miguel Valley, Deep, Creek, Sheep Creek, Whipple Mountain, etc.—but Hawn Mountain is truly special. Please be respectful when parking and using the trail, so that private landowners will continue to allow access to this extraordinary trail. For more in-depth trail information, check out the Telluride Hiking Guide. The new Hawn Mountain trail will be included in the upcoming edition of the book.


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