The Stage 3 fire and access restrictions to the San Juan National Forest have been rolled back to a Stage 2 condition which means access to the forest is once more open to the public. However, fire conditions still remain high and we are currently in the middle of a strong heat wave. Consult current regulations with the San Juan NF before planning any trips. Fines for violations are significant.
From the Town of Silverton and the US 550 intersection on the west side of town, drive north on US 550 and in a little over 2 miles turn west onto FR585. If coming from Ouray, drive south on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass and watch for the FR585 turnoff on your right before reaching Silverton. Drive west on this graded dirt road to the campground and trailhead parking appx. 4.7 miles in. The last mile of road gets a little rougher but should still be navigable by passenger cars.
Alternate TH: This should only be used if accessing peaks in the Ice Lake basin area. Do not follow these directions if trying to access peaks at the head of the South Fork of Mineral Creek.
Follow directions from Silverton or Ouray as before, but before arriving at the campground, watch for a 4WD drive road that heads diagonally up the hillside on your right, a little more than .7 mile before the campground and lower TH parking area or about 3.9 to 4.0 miles in from the highway. The road you're looking for is called the "Clear Lake Road," #815. It does not show on the older USGS quad, but does show on the Forest Service map. It turns off at these coordinates: N 37° 48' 19.49" W 107° 45' 46.26". Drive about a mile up this road to the first switchback and park here for summits in Ice Lake Basin if a space is available (very limited parking and no camping here). Parking coordinates are: N 37° 48' 37.64" W 107° 46' 35.63" Elev. 10,335 ft. Beginning your hike here will not save overall mileage but will save about 400 feet of gain. 4WD with better clearance recommended. From the car park, a trail heads NW and quickly comes to a crossing of Clear Creek. Getting across when water volume is high can be problematic & even a bit risky. If you succeed, continue following the trail on the other side. It will shortly be joined by the main trail coming up from the trailhead at the parking area by the South Mineral Campground.
This same road also continues to Clear Lake and the basin below South Lookout Peak. If in a lower clearance 2WD vehicle, you will not want to drive up this road any. Park wherever you can find a place to do so near where the road #815 turns off from FR585. If you have a good clearance, 4WD vehicle, you can drive all the way up to Clear Lake.
All along FR585, there are numerous at-large, primitive sites. Upon turning off US 550 and driving less than a mile, there's a large open area on the left with a vault toilet. There are usually a large number of RV's here. There is also the South Mineral Creek Campground and before arriving at the campground, you will see a number of other camp spots. Expect competition on the weekends for sites. This is a very popular area. There is no "allowed" camping at the trail head parking area.
This "approach" is intended for those with reliable 4WD with good clearance. From the trailhead parking area by the South Mineral Creek CG, you can continue driving west, beyond the campground, then turning SW on what quickly becomes a single-lane 4WD track that follows on the west side of the South Fork of Mineral Creek for about 2.8 miles to a large, open, grassy meadow at 10,640 ft. There is a trailhead here for the "Rico-Silverton" trail #507. This is also an access for a portion of the Colorado Trail system, which contours below the south slopes of the Twin Sisters. This road receives quite a bit of 4WD visitation on summer weekends. If you don't have your own 4WD, you may be able to hitch a ride. Last time we were on it, the road was not particularly rugged and we easily drove to the end of the road at the meadow in a Jeep Cherokee Sport.
As you drive up this road, there are a few primitive campsites that can be found off the road and down towards the creek. The best camping will be at the roads end in the large meadow. There are numerous places here where you can set up, assuming the Forest Service has not come in and closed it all down. Since this is a trailhead, some camping is probably still allowed close by.
From FR585 above & south of the Mineral Creek CG, there is an old road that heads off to the right before you reach the Rico-Silverton Trailhead. You can't drive up this old road, but you can walk it, so set out from here on foot and follow this old roadbed toward the pass that allows access over to Lake Hope. Watch for the switchback about 3/4 mile from the start. If you miss it, you'll be doing some serious side-hilling and bushwhacking. Flowers all through here are outstanding. Once you come to an old cabin, begin working your way SW, across the open basin, heading toward the base of a saddle between Rolling Mountain and V. 9. You should end up about 1,000 feet below the saddle.
Work your way up toward the saddle beginning on tundra & a little bit of rock that soon gives way to a steepening slope of more rocky talus and then loose, sandy soil. After a few hundred feet of "two-steps-forward-one-step-back" kind of work, you'll arrive at the foot of a cliff. Turn right and follow the ascending base of the cliffs up through more sandy, loose gravel and rock until you're beyond the cliffband and can cut back over to the saddle at 12,863 ft. While you're here, you might want to consider a short, scree and talus jaunt to the summit of V. 9, little more than 15 minutes NW along the ridge.
From the saddle, drop west into the head of the Cascade Creek Basin. trying to contour around at a higher level can be tedious & time-consuming. You're probably better off to just go ahead and lose about 1,000 feet in elevation and try to aim for some tiny tarns at a relatively flat area about one mile west at 11,820 ft. From here, you still do not have a very good perspective of the route up V. 10, so continue hiking west up a steep slope into the basin north of the peak. A prominent ridge off Grizzly Peak forms the southern side of this basin. Once in the upper basin, you'll be on rubble and talus of various sorts. Keep going until you are almost north and just a little east of the V. 10 summit ridge at about 12, 660 ft. The map shows something of a small, more level are, here, but don't be fooled.
Now you should be in position to see the final route to the summit. Look at the main summit ridge. Look for a "v" shaped notch in the summit ridge and aim for there. Hike on up first over rubbly talus, then flat plates of rock that move under foot and the pitch wants to send you sliding back down the mountainside. As you progress higher, the slope steepens and the situation becomes more and more a "watch for falling mountains" scenario. After 700 feet of gain, you should arrive at the notch, or preferably, just to the right, where in 2002, we found a small cairn.
At this point, you'll begin to believe the summit is attainable, however, a short 3rd class section awaits. The summit ridge is not a cakewalk and reminded us of Pilot Knob. Head WNW toward the summit, staying on the ridge crest as much as possible. There's significant exposure on either side. Whenever you're forced off the ridge crest, it will almost always be on the west side. You will probably have to drop some into some steep gullies, then have to regain the ridge after that. Soon after, the summit will arrive. We did not find rope necessary for this scramble, but the exposure may bother some. Once on top, congratulate yourself and admire the rugged appearance of Grizzly Peak to the SSE.
For the return trip, retrace your route as much as possible back to the Rolling-V.9 saddle and then trudge back to your vehicle. Unfortunately, when you descend the north face from the summit ridge, any hope of scree-skiing will be erased by the unstable rock that's suspended on the sloping shelves. For the record: V. 10 was our last summit of the 300 highest. At this point in 2002, we still had not determined to go ahead and climb all the 13ers, but passing this milestone got us thinking more seriously about it.
Alternate Approach & route: This alternate brings you in from the Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort & Ski area. It is the approach we would recommend for climbing Grizzly Peak B. So from Durango, drive north on US550 about 28 miles to the Durango Mtn. Resort and turn west on Hermosa Park Road. (From Silverton, drive south on US 550 for about 22 miles. Follow this dirt road (so it was in 2002) to where it intersects a paved road that's part of the resort and take a sharp right, go a short distance and keep going straight onto a dirt road. This is still the Hermosa Park Road #578. Proceed on a series of switchbacks that climb above the resort. At the next intersection, a sign mentions a campground, the Hermosa Creek trail and Ebert Creek Road. Go right. In about another half mile, go right, turning onto the Relay Creek Road (CR38 or FR578) After a quarter mile, stay left. A mile and a half later, turn right for the Cascade Divide Road, FR579, instead of continuing on Relay Creek. You should now be on the correct road - FR579. In a few more miles it passes through a gate and from there it's 8 more long miles to the road terminus. The road becomes much rougher after the gate. Higher clearance is preferred. The road is slow enough to drive that biking it on a mountain bike would not be much slower. It took us around 1:20 to drive in the 15 + miles to the abrupt roads end. If these directions do not work, you could try the last edition of G & M and follow the directions for Grizzly Peak B. On the San Juan National Forest map, this clearly shows as FR579, which is shown connecting to the Colorado Trail. The same road does show on the Trails Illustrated map # 141, but only the last few miles. This road does not show at all for most of its last eight miles on the USGS quad.
The road ends at these coordinates: N 37° 43' 31.24" W 107° 51' 42.46". Elevation is 11,230 ft. You can primitive camp here or back down the road a short distance, or at other spots on the drive in. If you climb up the hillside to the left less than 100 feet in elevation, you can intersect the Colorado Trail, but a clear trail heads NNW from the road's end and contours down some to cross an unnamed creek that flows down from Sliderock Ridge. Along the way, you'll intersect the Colorado Trail coming in on your left. Cross the creek and the trail makes an abrupt turn to the east. In about a quarter mile, you'll need to make a choice. The Colorado Trail continues on east, rounds a broad ridge and then makes a contouring descent northward (losing over 400 feet elevation) to cross Cascade Creek at 10,860 feet on a sturdy bridge. From that crossing, you can leave the trail and blaze your own path north along Cascade Creek. Dense willows are numerous. The east side of the creek appears to offer the least willow-bashing opportunities and then later, crossing over to the west side as you begin to gain elevation up to the small tarns at the level spot at 11,820 ft. mentioned in the main route description above. From there, you can follow the directions for V. 10 provided above.
The other route choice comes where the Colorado Trail continues east, and another trail splits off to the left and gains elevation to round the same broad ridge higher up. This trail then heads north crossing a talus field and drops you onto a pleasant bench with one larger lake and several other small ponds. The north end of this bench is a marshy area. Walk around the west side of the larger lake and then walk NNE, skirting the marsh as best you can. Utilize some rock outcrops to avoid the marsh and head toward a ridge coming off Grizzly Peak. Gain about 100 feet in elevation at the most and cross this ridge to a point where you can see down into Cascade Creek. It is possible from here to make a contouring descent down into the valley and intersect the creek at about 11,200 ft. But between you and the creek is a mountainside covered in thick willows. The trick for getting through these willows is to find a game trail that leads down through them that follows a diagonal, willow-covered, narrow ramp that deposits you out at 11,200 ft. by the creek. It is easier to locate and follow this ramp on the way out than going in. if you fail to find it, you'll have a tough half hour of trying to get down to Cascade Creek. In 2002, we left some small cairns to help mark this access, but they are likely there no longer. In the Google Earth perspective provided, the purple-lined, alternate route shows the upper trail. You can actually see both trails on GE. So the choice is yours as to which trail you follow. Both will involve some willow bashing. Once you make it into the Cascade Creek drainage, you can intersect our route description from the small tarns at 11,820 ft. by heading directly north upstream and following the left fork of the stream when it divides.