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San Miguel Mountains


San Miguel Mountains

The San Juan Mountains are a high and rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado, and is the largest mountain range in Colorado by area. The area is highly mineralized (the Colorado Mineral Belt) and figured in the gold and silver mining industry of early Colorado. Major towns, all old mining camps, include Creede, Lake City, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Large scale mining has ended in the region, although independent prospectors still work claims throughout the range. The last large scale mines were the Sunnyside Mine near Silverton, which operated until late in the 20th century and the Idarado Mine on Red Mountain Pass that closed down in the 1970s. Famous old San Juan mines include the Camp Bird and Smuggler Union mines, both located between Telluride and Ouray.

The Summitville mine was the scene of a major environmental disaster in the 1990s when the liner of a cyanide-laced tailing pond began leaking heavily. Summitville is in the Summitville caldera, one of many extinct volcanoes making up the San Juan volcanic field. One, La Garita Caldera, is 35 miles (56 km) in diameter. Large beds of lava, some extending under the floor of the San Luis Valley, are characteristic of the eastern slope of the San Juans.

Tourism is now a major part of the regional economy, with the narrow gauge railway between Durango and Silverton being an attraction in the summer. Jeeping is popular on the old trails which linked the historic mining camps, including the notorious Black Bear Road. Visiting old ghost towns is popular, as is wilderness trekking and mountain climbing. Many of the old mining camps are now popular sites of summer homes. The San Juans are extremely steep and receive a lot of snow; only Telluride has made the transition to a major ski resort. Purgatory (now known as Durango Mountain Resort) is a small ski area north of Durango near the Tamarron Resort. There is also skiing on Wolf Creek Pass at the Wolf Creek ski area. Recently Silverton Mountain ski area has begun operation near Silverton.

The Rio Grande rises on the east side of the range. The other side of the San Juans, the western slope of the continental divide, is drained by tributaries of the San Miguel, Dolores and Gunnison rivers, which all flow into the Colorado River.

The San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests cover a large portion of the San Juan Mountains.

The San Juan Mountains also have the distinction of being the location of the highest airport with scheduled airline service in the U.S., being Telluride Airport at an elevation of 9,070 feet.[1]

Prominent peaks

  • Note: This is only a partial list of important peaks in the San Juans, listing peaks by prominence only. There are dozens more summits over 12,000 feet.
The 28 peaks of the San Juan Mountains with at least 500 meters of prominence
Rank Mountain Peak Elevation Prominence Isolation
1 NGS !B-893221147 4365 m
14,321 ft
!B-1693467951 1304 m
4,277 ft
!B-989077722 137 km
85 mi
2 Mount Wilson[2] !B-845179241 4344 m
14,252 ft
!B-1083709288 1227 m
4,024 ft
!B-129698964 53 km
33 mi
3 NGS !B-778939456 4315 m
14,158 ft
!B1687637503 930 m
3,050 ft
!B-1293116043 25 km
16 mi
4 Mount Eolus[2] !B-729820083 4294 m
14,089 ft
!B737091349 665 m
2,183 ft
!B-1690283024 40 km
25 mi
5 NGS !B-707778019 4285 m
14,058 ft
!B-2106054909 575 m
1,888 ft
!B2119112351 18 km
11 mi
6 NGS !B-682072867 4274 m
14,022 ft
!B1483188710 949 m
3,113 ft
!B1905866229 43 km
27 mi
7 PB !B-594930744 4237 m
13,900 ft
!B1100931442 642 m
2,105 ft
!B-82352653 15 km
9 mi
8 PB !B-542111580 4214 m
13,827 ft
!B-1962024485 567 m
1,861 ft
!B-1784981058 17 km
11 mi
9 Mount Oso[2] !B-442574079 4173 m
13,690 ft
!B-843120663 507 m
1,664 ft
!B674020938 8.8 km
5.5 mi
10 Tower MountainPB !B-345734089 4132 m
13,558 ft
!B-770755878 504 m
1,652 ft
!B892044491 8.6 km
5.4 mi
11 Sultan MountainPB !B-208727872 4076 m
13,373 ft
!B-1999557555 569 m
1,868 ft
!B-1863349308 7.4 km
4.6 mi
12 Summit Peak PB !B-159130260 4056 m
13,307 ft
!B-1608220684 841 m
2,760 ft
!B-2011939391 64 km
40 mi
13 Dolores PeakPB !B-150606018 4053 m
13,296 ft
!B1865792388 594 m
1,950 ft
!B1613511119 8.0 km
5.0 mi
14 PB !B-112548124 4037 m
13,245 ft
!B-1964130135 872 m
2,860 ft
!B-1548471965 40 km
25 mi
15 Bennett PeakPB !B-84914105 4026 m
13,209 ft
!B-1306951319 531 m
1,743 ft
!B-2126300201 28 km
17 mi
16 PB !B-62392808 4017 m
13,179 ft
!B2062581103 583 m
1,912 ft
!B986484799 13 km
8 mi
17 Twilight Peak[2] !B-50177235 4012 m
13,163 ft
!B51133096 713 m
2,338 ft
!B1815029273 7.9 km
4.9 mi
18 South River PeakPB !B-43430355 4009 m
13,154 ft
!B-408622172 746 m
2,448 ft
!B-332357443 35 km
22 mi
19 Peak 13,010PB !B62198903 3967 m
13,016 ft
!B-1573037381 546 m
1,790 ft
!B-609316845 15 km
10 mi
20 Lone ConePB !B372364267 3846 m
12,618 ft
!B333086438 693 m
2,273 ft
!B-332619351 15 km
9 mi
21 Graham Peak PB !B437577353 3821 m
12,536 ft
!B-820770850 778 m
2,551 ft
!B-1474014377 17 km
10 mi
22 Elliott MountainPB !B590952421 3763 m
12,346 ft
!B479327455 683 m
2,240 ft
!B1318649462 8.3 km
5.1 mi
23 Cornwall MountainPB !B635586196 3746 m
12,291 ft
!B-1312690675 532 m
1,744 ft
!B1186356493 8.4 km
5.2 mi
24 Sawtooth Mountain PB !B748287636 3704 m
12,153 ft
!B1984435409 587 m
1,927 ft
!B1896248815 28 km
18 mi
25 Chalk Benchmark PB !B842951664 3669 m
12,038 ft
!B1758672503 601 m
1,971 ft
!B-2145884436 12 km
7 mi
26 Little Cone PB !B884736166 3654 m
11,988 ft
!B-1853973769 561 m
1,841 ft
!B-288363517 9.7 km
6.0 mi
27 Cochetopa Dome !B1620400319 3395 m
11,138 ft
!B-1415383906 537 m
1,762 ft
!B-492452234 9.9 km
6.2 mi
28 Horse MountainPB !B-1548540985 3033 m
9,952 ft
!B-2100770801 575 m
1,887 ft
!B-94529563 22 km
14 mi

History of the area

Mining operators in the San Juan mountain area formed the San Juan District Mining Association (SJDMA) in 1903, as a direct result of a Western Federation of Miners proposal to the Telluride Mining Association for the eight hour day, which had been approved in a referendum by 72 percent of Colorado voters.[3] The new association consolidated the power of thirty-six mining properties in San Miguel, Ouray, and San Juan counties.[4] The SJDMA refused to consider any reduction in hours or increase in wages, helping to provoke a bitter strike.


Telluride Ski Resort. Ridgeline annotation indicates the names and elevations of 43 visible peaks
Sneffels Range looking south.

Acceleration of snowmelt by dust

Dust blown in from adjoining deserts sometimes accelerates snowmelt in the San Juans.[5]

See also


Further reading

  • Bove, D. et al. (2001). Geochronology and geology of Late Oligocene through Miocene volcanism and mineralization in the western San Juan Mountains, Colorado [U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1642]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Lippman, P.W. (2006). Geologic map of the central San Juan Caldera Cluster, southwestern Colorado [Geologic Investigations Series I-2799]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

External links

  • Rocky Mountains @ Peakbagger
    • Southern Rocky Mountains @ Peakbagger
      • San Juan Mountains @ Peakbagger
  • Photos from the San Juan Mountains

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