Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.77210°N / 107.7028°W
Additional Information County: San Juan
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Elevation: 13087 ft / 3989 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Due south of Sultan Mountain and to the southwest of the Grand Turk sits Spencer Peak. Unranked but lovely in its conical symmetry, Spencer Peak was officially named at end of the summer of 2008 in honor of Dr. Donald C. Spencer.

Regarded by peers as an innovative mathematician and pioneering researcher, this graduate of the University of Colorado and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was an award-winning leader in the field of mathematics. Those who saw the movie “A Beautiful Mind” may recognize Dr. Spencer as the mentor to the tragically schizophrenic genius John Nash. Though Dr. Spencer excelled in East Coast, Ivy League academics and research, he returned to his beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains in the late 1970’s for retirement. Dr. Spencer passed away 23 December 2001 in Durango, Colorado. This Boulder, Colorado-born man was loved deeply by his surviving family members, who honored his memory by having this peak officially named after him.

Source for Information on Dr. Donald C. Spencer: New York Times Obituary
Connecting Ridge Between Grand Turk and SultanSpencer Peak is on the right.
19 July 2008
Photo by ktimm

Spencer Peak makes a worthy outing in its own right, and a pleasant (albeit somewhat mandatory) addition en route to the Grand Turk and Sultan Mountain combo from Little Molas Lake. The small, pointed summit allows for unrestricted views of the surrounding peaks.

Colorado Rank: Unranked
Thirteeners Rank: Unranked
Prominence: 267
Mountain Range: San Juan
USGS Quad: Silverton
Trails Illustrated Map: #141 (Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, Lake City)

Rank and Prominence Reference: Lists of John

Getting There and Route Overview

Spencer Peak resides about 6 miles southwest, as the crow flies, of Silverton, Colorado, in the San Juan Mountains.

RouteMileageElevation GainSpecial NoteDriving Directions
Molas Lake Direct5 miles roundtrip2,044 ft.The shortest, most direct route with least elevation gainFrom Silverton, Hwy 550 south to signed turnoff for Little Molas Lake (turn right/west-northwest). Continue 1 mile to lake parking.
Bear Creek9 miles roundtrip3,474 ft.Includes a loss of 150 feet; greatest overall elevation gainFrom Silverton, Hwy 550 north about 1.5 miles to gauging station. Parking may be questionable.
Via Lime-Bear Basin9 miles roundtrip2,246 ft.Includes a loss of 521 feet en route; might make nice loop with Molas DirectFrom Silverton, Hwy 550 south to signed turnoff for Little Molas Lake (turn right/west-northwest). Continue 1 mile to lake parking.

Snowdon Peak as seen from...Snowdon Peak as seen from Little Molas Lake.
Image by Brent D

Spencer Peak Route OverviewClick on map for larger view

Camping & Lodging

National Forest Campgrounds
The South Mineral Campground is about 6 miles from Silverton. The campground has 26 sites, available on a first-come, first-served basis. At 9,800 feet elevation, even summer nights will be chilly. To get there, drive two miles west of Silverton to Forest Road 585. Follow FR 585 west along the creek for four miles to the campground entrance. The facilities provide picnic tables, composting vault toilets, fire grates, trash disposal and potable water.

San Juan National Forest campground map

Commercial Campgrounds
Silverton hosts at least three commercial campgrounds offering services such as RV hookup, snacks and showers. These include Silverton Lakes Camper Park, Silver Summit RV Park and Red Mountain RV Park. Additional RV parks can be found by visiting the Silverton Magazine online lodging guide.

Cabins, Cottages, Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts
The lodging in and around Silverton could be described as “limited” and “eclectic”. Many are family owned and operated and tend toward the friendly and cozy, versus the sophisticated or luxurious. The Silverton Magazine provides a good online lodging guide.
Leaving Little Molas LakeLeaving Little Molas Lake
18 July 2008

Alan Ellis on the flanks of an unnamed 13erA hiker traverses the north side of Spencer Peak
Photo by ktimm

Weather & Seasons

Summer in the San Juans is heavenly, with warm sunny days and cool, crisp nights. As with the other mountainous areas of Colorado, the afternoon thunderstorms mean summertime hikers need to leave the summit by noon. The San Juans are well-known for thawing out later than other parts of Colorado; it is not uncommon for an ice axe to be required year-round on certain routes.

The town of Silverton and surrounding mountains receive massive amounts of snowfall in the winter months. Avalanche chutes abound in the area; in the summer, the wounds from the previous snow-season’s avalanche activity are evident. Exercise prudent snow sense in these mountains when snow cover is present.

Zone Forecast for Silverton, CO

Red Tape

Little or no red tape is involved in reaching the summit of Spencer Peak.
Spencer PeakSpencer Peak from the southwest
slopes of Sultan Mountain
Sep 2008
Photo by SarahThompson

External Links

Please feel free to post valuable external links for inclusion in this section to the Comments & Corrections for this page.
The Sultan and the Turk, SP Gathering ColoradoSpencer peak rises gently to the right of this panoramic photo by kane