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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,181.00 ft (359.97 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
3.80 mi (6.12 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Smelter Mountain Trail starts just south of Durango, and the trail immediately ascends steeply up the base of a rocky hill. Passing through high desert terrain that is common for the area, the ascent almost immediately opens with views to the south and east, showcasing the Durango region, its ruddy slopes, and rugged peaks. Yucca and cactus hug the base of pine and fir, but unlike an alpine environment they are loosely arranged, and the hike is exposed for much of its length. The sound of hummingbirds buzzing around is a great soundtrack to this trail, and they compliment the many hawks that frequent southwest Colorado. You can even see the main station of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from up here, which takes tourists and backpackers to Silverton and into the San Juan Mountains.

During the first mile, you gain a thousand feet while heading to the northwest, eventually heading due west once you reach the top of the plateau. You will see several communication towers at the top of the hill—which isn’t ideal, but they don’t obscure the beautiful views of the Animas River and Durango below. To get stunning views of Lake Nighthorse and the San Juan Mountains, keep heading west once atop the plateau toward the next set of towers. There are several sharp spines between the San Juan Mountains and Durango that are very dynamic and catch the light really well during sunrise and sunset; photographers, be advised. There are not too many people on this trail outside of the summer weekends, which is a nice contrast to more popular nearby hikes such as Animas Mountain Loop.

There are few cairns to direct you, and the trail is so lightly worn in places that it's easy to lose track in the early part of the hike. However, navigation is straightforward, and you really shouldn't have too much trouble keeping the route. The hike sits right on the edge of the Bodo State Wildlife Area in the La Plata Mountains, and Smelter Mountain Trail does have a few posted restrictions if hiked in the winter.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great views in most directions. Not too many people. Close to town.

Cons

Large power lines and communication towers at the top.

Trailhead Elevation

6,532.00 ft (1,990.95 m)

Highest point

7,713.00 ft (2,350.92 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Wildlife
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

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Durango is nestled in the Four Corners area of Southwest Colorado, surrounded by mountain peaks and away from the frenzy. A premier four-season destination, Durango offers unparalleled cultural, historic and outdoor attractions. Your adventure starts within half an hour of touching down! Get More. Visit durango.org or call 970-247-3500.

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