Mt. Rhoda, prior to the application of LIDAR technology, was considered a ranked summit with a previous elevation of 13,402 ft. It's current Lidar elevation of 13,418 ft., with a prominence of 297 feet demotes it to unranked status, but still a pleasant hike.
A visit to some scenic lakes and the opportunity to bag three 13er summits in a day. Mostly easy, gentle, tundra terrain and Class 1 hiking.
Mt. Rhoda Highland Mary Lakes Access Route
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From Cunningham Creek - Silverton:
From the Town of Silverton, drive to the east end of town where the paved road splits one block past the courthouse. Set your odometer and veer right onto blue-signed County Road 2. (On Trails Illustrated map #141 this is road #110 aka: BLM 4500.) After 2 miles, the pavement ends and the road becomes well-maintained, graded dirt. At 4.2 miles, you'll come to an intersection and the old townsite of Howardsville. Turn right onto BLM 4513 or FS589. A sign here indicates Cunningham Gulch and Stony Pass. At 4.4 miles from town, stay right. At 5.9 miles, stay right again. Do not drive up the Stony Pass Road. Continue driving south along Cunningham Creek. At about 7.1 miles is the place to park to access Little Giant Peak. At 7.6 miles is an old toilet on the east side of the road and a camp area on the west. At 7.8 miles, the good road ends, but passenger cars with moderate clearance can still make it to the trailhead. Take the right fork, drop down and cross the creek, then begin climbing on a single switchback to the trailhead. At 8.6 miles, turn left and descend sharply to cross Cunningham Creek again, (This is a low-water crossing which can be difficult in runoff season,) then drive another .2 to the limited trailhead parking area. If there's no room to park here, you can park before crossing the creek on a flat area just beyond the intersection atop some old mine tailings. Trailhead coordinates provided above are for parking at the first crossing of Cunningham Creek. The coordinates for the actual trailhead are: N 37° 46' 51.43" W 107° 34' 47.30".
At either of the two trailheads, you could park and vehicle camp overnight. On the drive up Cunningham Creek, once you pass the turnoff for Stony Pass, you can find a few other pullout type spots for an overnighter. Be careful about private property issues though. Back along CO110, there are a number of at-large, primitive sites, usually occupied by RV's and the likes. The nearest National Forest campgrounds will be either up South Mineral Creek or Little Molas Lake.
If you desire to spend more than a day in the area of the Highland Mary Lakes, then there is a short little backpack you can do to a good camp location that's only about 1.5 miles in from the passenger car trailhead or about 1mile from the 4WD trailhead. It's located in the last trees north of the lakes just above 11,670 ft., on a sloping ridge between the two main forks of the creek. There's room for several tents and a good water supply. This is where the trail to the lakes takes a decided turn to the west to follow a secondary drainage. Coordinates are approximately: N 37° 46' 10.4" W 107° 34' 34.8".
Route Info Mt. Rhoda Highland Mary Lakes Access
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 1997
From the passenger car parking at 10,460 ft., hike along the road as it crosses to the west side of Cunningham Creek and then heads uphill and south. In a little over a half mile, you'll arrive at the 4WD parking and the end of the road which again crosses back over Cunningham Creek. A gate prevents further driving, but the vehicle track continues some distance before becoming more of a trail. Not far up from the upper trailhead parking, the creek passes through a narrow chasm of either granite or metamorphic rock and presents quite a tumultuous sight. At about 11,620 feet, will be the campsite we mention in the trailhead description. It's on the slope of a hillside that runs between the two major forks of Cunningham Creek. On this unlikely looking slope, there are some tall trees and some flat spots to pitch a tent.
The main trail to Highland Mary Lakes turns west here following the stream, then turns south again to follow the main stream that drains one of the first lakes. A few hundred yards before arriving at that first lake (12,100 ft), cut right (west) up a steeper slope and gain the south flank of a mostly tundra-covered, broad ridge that's east of the Mt. Rhoda summit (UN13,402). This 13er summit is unranked. Follow the ridge west and contour into a basin on the south side. Stroll on up the lush basin admiring the wildflowers (if you're there at the right time) and at the head of the basin, either hike up the SE flank of Mt. Rhoda or walk to the saddle south of the summit. If you go to the south saddle, you may wish to contemplate hiking south first to Whitehead Peak (unranked), and then on to UN13,109, before turning around and going back to Mt. Rhoda. The summit is capped by a minor cliff band that can be avoided on the west side.
Enjoy the magnificent view of the Grenadier Range to the south, then make a decision as to whether or not to continue to Mountaineer Peak, a half hour stroll north along the ridge. To descend, head back as you came and take some extra time to walk around some of the Highland Mary Lakes. A side hike to Verde Lakes will offer even more spectacular photo ops of the Grenadiers.
"The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced donors without love and recipients without gratitude." Antonin Scalia