Backpacking: Rock Lake Loop | by Stephen Eginoire

Planning a backpacking trip to the Durango area this summer? You've chosen well! The San Juan Mountains are roughly the size of the Swiss Alps, including the spectacular 499,771  acre Weminuche Wilderness- Colorado's largest designated wilderness area.

There are countless multi-day tours to choose from in the Weminuche that range from very popular, to areas that see very little human traffic. 

The tour detailed below is a true San Juan wilderness experience. Be ready for a few hours of backcountry driving to access the trailhead. 

Rock Lake Loop, via Hunchback Pass

Getting there:

You'll have to find your way to Rio Grande Reservoir Road (FS 520), either by way of Silverton or Creede. From FS 520, locate FS 506, heading south into Bear Creek. Drive FS 506 passing the Beartown site (you may encounter a spot or two of 4WD here) eventually arriving at Kite Lake and the road's end. Walking distance from the car park is the Hunchback Pass trailhead.

The Route:

From the Hunchback Pass TH,  follow the Continental Divide Trail south (813) up and over Hunchback Pass, to Nebo Creek.  Make sure to follow the CDT (813) east, up the Nebo Creek drainage. 

Once you exit the Nebo Creek drainage, continue on the CDT (813) for approximately 7 miles to Twin Lakes. Upon reaching the lakes, the route departs from the CDT (813). Locate Rock Creek trail (655) bearing south towards a high pass. From the top of the pass descend into the Rock Creek drainage, following Rock Creek trial (655) for approximately 5.7 miles until intersecting with Vallecito trail (529) at the bottom of the valley. 

Bear north on the Vallecito trail (529) for appx. 3.1 miles to where the trail intersects the CDT (655) at Nebo Creek, closing the loop. Continue north on the CDT (655) back over Hunchback Pass for 2.5 miles to the cars.

*NOTE* The trail from Hunchback Pass TH to Rock Lake is consistently above 11,500 feet. Take the threat of lighting into careful consideration.

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Tarns near Mount Nebo.

Fine views of Strom King peak from the CDT.

Tundra and marshlands surrounding West Ute lake.

A view of Twin Lakes.  Note: The CDT (813) branches off to the east at Twin Lakes. Be sure to pick up the Rock Creek Trail (655) continuing south towards Rock Lake.

Looking into the headwaters of Rock Creek, above Twin Lakes.

Rock Lake

Glorious alpine vegetation.

Camp perched above Rock Creek, and not a soul to be seen.

Reflection of Peters Peak (13,122') in Rock Lake.

Lounge time.