There are some hikes that are just incomparable. Highland Mary near Silverton, CO is one of them A couple of weekends before this last heavy storm system settled in, my boyfriend Rory and I hiked the 9-mile Highland Mary/Continental Divide Trail loop as a relaxing weekend backpacking trip.
The Highland Mary Lakes are perhaps one of the most popular day-hike destinations in the area. Easily accessible from the Cunningham Gulch road by most high clearance vehicles, this backcountry trail into the Weminuche Wilderness offers astounding high country views. You’ll quick gain 12,000 ft. and stay there for much of the 9-mile loop.
We walked against the flow of traffic on Saturday afternoon – perhaps 10, 15 other hikers – and camped beside the largest of the two lakes. A couple of fly-fishermen cast lines by the shores in the golden afternoon sun and it was all together quiet in this high alpine basin.
In the morning, we crossed the fragile tundra and climbed to a rise above Verde Lakes. Here, a faint trail ventures off to the east, following tall wooden posts. We climbed up this steady hill where we eventually met the Continental Divide and Colorado Trails. This hike is entirely above treeline and the views from the CDT are incredible.
Apart from the altitude the hiking is relatively easy. We looped back to the trailhead well before 2:00 where we found some hikers just getting ready to head out for the day. If you do this hike, most likely you’ll need to be concerned about monsoons, as they will typically roll in during the afternoon. There is little shelter by the lakes! And if you plan on camping there, plan on not hanging a bear bag as there are no trees.