Trail offers scenery, wildflowers

Hope Lake, in the San Juan Mountains, offers nice views and early season wildflowers.

Take a break from the heat and hike up to Hope Lake this summer.

This straightforward, moderate hike has amazing, up-close views of rugged mountains along the route to a blue-green lake.

It is also the starting point for climbing San Miguel Peak, a thirteener.

The 3.2-mile Hope Lake trail (6.4 miles round trip) starts out in deep forest with plenty of rushing streams, waterfalls, and a verdant landscape of mosses, grasses and flowers.

It soon switchbacks up a steep slope to the tundra above treeline and then to the lake situated in a steep bowl. Watch for afternoon thunderstorms and lightning; always carry a rain jacket.

Yellow Mountain to the northeast creates a vivid backdrop of red, yellow and orange rock layers. To the west are spectacular views of Mount Wilson and El Diente peak. The hike is a local's favorite for viewing wildflowers.

The trailhead starts above Trout Lake just over Lizard Head Pass on the Telluride side. From Cortez take Highway 145 to Trout Lake. Drive along the shore road for 1.5 miles, then hang a left on Forest Road 627. Proceed up this rocky road 2.5 miles to the trailhead. High clearance is preferred, but regular cars routinely drive the road; just take it slow. Take note of the excellent free car camping opportunities along the way.