LoJ: #398 (Pre-LiDAR #394) / 13,305' Middle Peak

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Dolores Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 51' 13.70", W 108° 06' 31.10" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Dolores Peak

Peak Summary

Middle Peak is as the name describes the middle summit of a trilogy group whose nearest neighbors are the Wilson group located back to the northeast. Closest major town is Telluride and driving on a graded dirt/gravel road is required to reach this trailhead. Most cross-over type vehicles and passenger cars with better ground clearance can make it to the trailhead. The hike is a Class 2. Middle Peak is sequenced with Dolores Peak and if you like to "clean out" an area, you may as well include Dunn Peak ( a 12er) for a peakbagging trifecta. Pre-Lidar elevation was 13,300 ft.

Middle Peak West/NW Ridge Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
Climbed with Dolores Peak
RT From Fish Creek - Dolores & Middle Peaks: 7.2mi / 3,105'
  • Trailhead
    • Fish Creek - Dolores & Middle Peaks TH

      From Ridgway, CO: Go west on CO62 across Dallas Divide and descend toward Norwood/Placerville. Turn left onto CO145 for Placerville/Telluride. 4 miles west of Telluride, turn right at "Society Junction" traffic circle to continue south on CO145. Drive over Lizard Head Pass. Begin measuring mileage at the summit of the pass. Continue south approximately another 6.3 miles to the turnoff for Dunton, which will be on the right. This is variously known as the "Dunton Road," CR38 on Google Earth or FR535 on the San Juan forest map. The road receives regular summer traffic and tends to be bumpy and washboarded, but passable to passenger most cars. Follow the graded gravel Dunton Road past the trailhead for Navajo Lake and the Burro Bridge campground to the intersection for the Dunton Guard Station. This will be 1.6 miles past the turnoff for the Burro Bridge Campground. Coordinates for this intersection are: N 37° 46' 48.64" W 108° 05' 20.95" at 8,900 ft. This intersection is .7 mile north of Dunton. Turn right (west) and head up FR611 (or Road 52 on GE) and drive approximately 5.2 miles to where the road makes a sharp bend to the left and crosses Fish Creek. You can either park here or turn right and drive up a short road to additional parking and possibly a place to camp.

      If coming from Durango or other southern Colorado towns: Drive west from Durango on US160 to Mancos. Turn right and head NW on CO184 to Dolores. In Dolores, take CO145 east, then north to CR38 which breaks off from following the main fork of the Dolores River and heads up along the West Fork of the Dolores. Drive many miles on the graded gravel road to Dunton. Drive past the turnoff for Dunton another .7 mile to the Dunton Guard Station intersection. Turn left (west) onto the previously mentioned FR611 and follow it 5.2 miles to the Fish Creek crossing as explained above.


      As mentioned before in the driving directions, when FR611 crosses Fish Creek, on the west side of the creek, there is a short road that heads up north along the creek and soon terminates at a small parking area where a car camp would be possible. On the west side of FR611, just before the Fish Creek crossing, there's a vehicle track on the left where one could park a vehicle and even set up a tent. In addition, on the way up FR611, there are several other primitive sites just off the road. For forest service campgrounds, try the Burro Bridge, north of Dunton on CR38 or south of Dunton, there are the West Dolores CG and the Mavreeso CG. These are quite a ways down from Dunton, so not as convenient.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Middle Peak West/NW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2005

    From the end of the short road that turns off FR611 and goes up along Fish Creek on the west side, follow a trail uphill on the left and that leads to an old logging road that you may follow up through open, logged meadows and forest. In this area, on the west side of the creek, we found numerous old logging roads, each one maybe 20 to 50 feet higher in elevation than the last. But the logging operation must have been many years ago because these old roads were mostly well grown over. Utilize these roads as you need to continue up the drainage. Fish Creek tends to narrow into a "gorge" and staying down by the creek is pointless. Stay well above the creek on the west bank and follow a minor ridge up through the forest to gain a couple "bench" areas. In 2005, and again in 2014, the forest was in good condition and fairly open without a lot of fallen debris.

    After a half mile to a mile, the roads run out. Continue a steady climb through the forest and staying on a ridge overlooking the creek. We began to see evidence of elk, and as we hiked higher, we could hear them calling to each other, so we began to slow our walk and keep heading up valley as quietly as possible. Soon, we found a small group in the trees and just below open, grassy slopes to the west. A young, 3-point bull presented himself within our camera view and we snapped several photos. For several minutes, they had no idea we were there and we were within yards of some, but then they began to sense our presence and moved off up into the tundra and across a minor ridge.

    After emerging from that minor ridge, follow a route and a game trail along a high bench that heads up toward the Middle/Dunn saddle and stays just below the rubble piles below the cliffs on the east side of Dunn. Along this stretch, as we passed by some low evergreens and willows, we flushed out some creature that went crashing down the mountainside and out of sight before we could determine if it was a deer or an elk. Eventually, the trail leads into the center of the drainage and you can hike over mostly tundra to near the saddle before turning east to climb Middle Peak.

    At or near the saddle, begin the long gain of the west ridge of Middle Peak. The first 400 feet along this ridge is rocky but straightforward. The next 600 feet, is considerably steeper and very rocky. From a distance, you may even wonder if you will encounter some very difficult obstacles. Nothing really hinders though, but it is slow going on the steep, broken rock. About 200 feet from the summit, the steepness begins to moderate a little and you can continue hiking with less difficulty over more rock. We arrived at the 13,261 summit marked on the survey map, paused briefly to survey the view, then proceeded on to the true summit, that is southeast along the ridge. This final portion is an easy stroll and you should arrive at the true summit shortly. From here, there is a commanding view in all directions of the rolling, hilly landscape that covers this area. Forest and green meadow are in abundance everywhere. The road south of Dunton is very visible. This entire portion of the state offers some very attractive camping almost anywhere amid the vast meadows and deep green forests. It is certainly an area to visit again for some leisurely camping some day. After admiring the view, proceed on to Dolores Peak by continuing generally south along the ridge crest.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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