Capture Fall Foliage and Whitmore Falls on Engineer Pass

Rate this Adventure Engineer Pass Road, Lake City, Colorado, United States

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Autumn

Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall

Short, easy walk to waterfall. Incredible views. Very little traffic.

Just outside of the small community of Lake City, Colorado is Engineer Pass, a dirt road that has amazing views and opportunities to hike, take pictures, and maybe even explore an abandoned mining town. Four wheel drive or all wheel drive is preferable, but the road can definitely be driven by a passenger vehicle if conditions are good. This road is a fairly unknown local gem and you can count on not seeing many other cars during your trip.

Even in early September, you can see the aspens turning yellow and painting the mountainsides gold. The road follows a small creek that is especially beautiful during the autumn months because of the way the trees line the river. The abandoned Ute Ulay Mine is just off the left side of the road and is open to hikers and explorers during all times except restoration periods.

As the road continues to climb up you will enter in and out of tunnels made of changing tress. You will pass by the small ghost town of Capitol City, another abandoned mining community also open to anyone who wants to check out the area. At this point, you are about one mile away from the Whitmore Falls trailhead. The trailhead is marked by a wooden sign reading: "Whitmore Falls scenic overlook." You will follow a well marked path down some wooden stairs to the waterfall observation point, about 200 feet away from the actual waterfall. The trail doesn't end here if you want to keep exploring. To get closer to the waterfall there is another trail that leads down to the bottom where the fall flows into a small pool. The trail is short, only about 100 meters, but somewhat steep, so good hiking shoes are preferable. This area is a great place to take pictures, especially because the dimmer light allows photographers to take longer exposures without light interfering.

After you hike back, you can continue to either drive further up the pass or turn around and head back to Lake City. If you continue to drive further up, you will continue to have incredible views of the San Juan mountain range, including Uncompahgre Peak, one of Colorado's 53 peaks above 14,000 feet.

On the way back, you will enjoy seeing the views on the road from a different angle. It's a lot easier to see the abundance of changing trees on the way down.

Back in Lake City, you can grab lunch or dinner at one of the town's several local cafes or explore other local nature areas like Lake San Cristobal or Slumgullion Pass.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Good shoes for hiking
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Katie Lyons Explorer

Trail running, skiing, and photography enthusiast from Gunnison, CO.

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