To make things confusing there are two Engineer Mountains in the San Juan Mountains. This one - Engineer Mountain “A” - is a thirteener, easy accessible from the Engineer Pass rough 4WD road. The other Engineer Mountain is located just a few miles south and is accessible from Coal Bank Pass (off Highway 550). This 2nd Engineer Mountain is a prominent landmark seen from Hwy 550, and offers a more challenging climb (class 4) with a beautiful ridge summit. It is sometimes marked as Engineer Mountain “B” since its altitude is lower.
Engineer Mountain “A” 13,218 feet (4029 meters), prominence 418 feet (128 meters), Colorado Rank 469
Engineer Mountain “B” 12,968 feet (= 3953 meters), prominence 1408 feet (430 meters), Colorado Rank 655
Closest Mountains: Seigal Mountain 1.62 miles away, Darley Mountain 0.86 miles away
Getting ThereBear Creek Trail - detailed description on SP click here. Briefly: From Ouray, drive 2.3 miles south on US Highway 550 (=Million Dollar Highway) to where the road passes through a small tunnel. The trailhead is on the right (=west) side of the road immediately beyond the tunnel. It is well marked.
The distance is less than 0.5 miles from the Engineer Pass Sign, and the elevation gain is less than 500 feet. The views from the summit are spectacular.
Lazy hiker - can drive up all the way to the top of Engineer Pass and reach the altitude of 12,800 feet in his/her vehicle. The hike towards the summit should take less than 20-30 minutes, difficulty class 1-2. And as mentioned above, it involves less than 0.5 mile distance, and less than 500 feet elevation gain.
Slightly more ambitious hiker - can park anywhere below the Engineer Pass summit, and hike initially on 4WD road, then up the east ridge of the mountain. Distance would obviously depend how far do you choose to drive up.
Ambitious hiker - can choose very scenic Bear Creek Trail approach. The difficulty is very easy, nice trail all the way, class 1, and a short section of class 2 below the summit. The trail is incredible scenic, listed as National Recreation Trail, well signed. The round trip distance would be slightly over 15 miles (16.5 miles if combined with Darley Mountain).
Detailed description of Bear Creek trail is available here. (highly recommended).
Very ambitious hiker - can choose to do this hike off season, and hike, snowshoe, ski up Engineer Pass road from Hwy 550. This will be nearly 20 mile round trip distance. Please be aware of avalanche danger during the winter months. The initial section of Engineer Pass road is a popular ice climbing destination, and there are several famous ice climbs in the area. I will mention just a few: Gravity Rainbow, and Kennedy Gully (the YouTube video of this ice climb made it around the world with a nearly fatal accident when a large chunk of melting ice slid away above the climber). The Engineer Pass road can be also mountain biked during the summer months, but please be aware that the road is narrow and there will be a lot of slow jeep traffic along there. Some cars move super slowly, and can take hours to reach the top of the pass. There is also rock climbing at the turn off from Hwy 550 towards the Engineer Pass, e.g. Lightline.
Red TapeThere are no fees to hike up Bear Creek Trail. There is no fee to drive up along the Alpine scenic road.
When to Climb
CampingMultiple primitive camping spots along the upper section of Bear Creek trail and also along the 4WD Engineer Pass road. There are no fees if camping on your own, but this also means no facilities.
- Engineer Mountain "A" on 13ers.org
- Alpine Loop Scenic Byway
- BLM Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway
- And more information on Alpine Loop
- You tube clip to see what to expect if driving
- Rock climbing off Engineer Pass Road - I have climbed only Lightline.
- Ice climbing at Engineer Pass Road: Gravity Rainbow and Kennedy Gully among a few.