Molas Lake to Animas River via Molas Trail

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San Juan National Forest

Molas Lake to Animas River via Molas Trail is a 8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Silverton, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and mountain biking and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length8.0 miElevation gain2,129 ftRoute typeOut & back
HikingMountain bikingDog friendlyForestLakeRiverWaterfallWildflowersWildlife
Description
Waypoints (0)

Starts at Molas Lake and ends up at Animas River. Down hill trail

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (139)
Photos (264)
Activities (106)
Completed (270)
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Joseph Wade
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SnowshoeingGreat!IcyNo shadeSnow

Snowshoed on April 2nd out to the 2.1 mile marker from the parking lot where they keep all of the rental snowmobiles (Silverton Powdercats). Absolutely amazing views of Electric Peak and Mt Garfield at the 2.1 mile marker. There were lots of snowmobile paths at the beginning that taper off later on, and you enter true wilderness. Its gorgeous, and you get a great taste of snowshoeing. Great starter snowshoeing trail, but bring GPS! I never saw a another soul out their other than my hiking partner!

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Joel Barger
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OHV/Off-road driving

Started recording after the first stop.

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kap n
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HikingGreat!
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Emmy Laursen
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HikingGreat!

Took this hike (even passed it to nearly Beaver's Pond and back the next day) with a ~50 lb pack on and it was so worth it. We had seen reviews of the trail before going and were completely blown away and surprised by the views (based on reviews). The aspens were yellowing all along the trail. Several switchbacks. I always wear Chacos hiking downhill because I don't like when my toes hit the front of my boot. The river is an awesome lunch spot - plenty of spots to distance from others, get access to water and chill while you re-energize. Highly recommend!

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Ronald Goecke
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Hiking

Nice hike. Colorado’s normally beautiful blue skies are very hazy today due to the wildfires to the west.

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Jerry Davis
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BackpackingRocky

Hiked it carrying a 42-lb backpack. 5PM start made for a dark trail around 8:30PM, and my headlamp developed a tricky switch. It worked after a bang or two, but no real confidence in the switch. Tented in what looked like a drying marsh field at around 10,800 feet. Very comfortable sleeping in early September. SOme hikers told me when I woke up that the lake was only about 50 yards ahead, and it was. Beautiful place to pitch a tent with friends. I was jealous of those with friends to share the experience with. The hike back was harder then the hike in. I suppose it is the dowhnill pressure on the upper thigh and where it anchors on the knee. My legs are sore today, 48 hours down, but I feel fine for another trail tomorrow, with a lighter backpack this time. I am 63 years old, male, athletic. The thinner air was an issue, and it slowed me considerably coming down. Down was slower than up for me by about one hour (3.5 hours up. 4.5 hours down), and I attribute the difference to being already taxed by the hike up in the dark and the late eating/sleeping time. But later, when I finally got a hot shower - BOOM!

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Carly Saunders
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Hiking

It was a pretty trail- seemed a bit longer than 8 miles and my tracker showed 9+. The water at the bottom was a beautiful teal and there were small waterfalls heading to the bottom. Was definitely a great hike- just not a fan of of the hike down and hike out style :)

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Janis Nau
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Hiking

Pretty lake and scenery.

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Thomas Woodhams
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Hiking

Super easy, caught a few fish too

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Gracie Ferguson
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HikingBugsRocky

Bring bug repellant! Other than that, strenuous if you aren’t acclimated to the altitude, but very worth it. We rested down by the river for a few hours and had a great day.

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Greg Lee
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HikingBugs

I rate trails based on whether the effort is worth the scenic payoff. For this trail, I'd say probably not. Contrary to people on here saying the 1,900 feet (in elevation) hike back up "isn't bad", believe you me, it is. Especially when mosquitoes and flies start attacking you every time you try to pause for 30 seconds to catch your breath. This would be another trail I'd rate 3.5 stars if I could. The best views on the trail can be seen within the first half or 3/4 mile (and, quite frankly, I think the views from the Molas Lake campground area are better or even the Molas Pass parking area) and around the 3ish mile mark. The problem with this trail is that the bulk of it is walking through aspen and evergreen forests, which blocks your views of the area around you for over half the hike. Once you get to around the 3 mile mark you'll start seeing the view that makes the hike semi-worthwhile --- it's the view of the Animas River flowing through a mountain valley. But as gorgeous as it is, that's the only view you'll be seeing --- one view; one scene. You'll be seeing this one view from about the 3 mile mark to the 3.5 mile mark along the trail and from various vantage points. Do yourself a favor, and don't walk the extra half mile (1 mi roundtrip) all the way down to the river; the view down there isn't worth it, and it's one of the hardest parts of the trail due to steep elevation. Plus, you need to walk over 2 logs that are perched about 6 feet above a creek; if you have a fear of heights like me it's not fun. For a better hike with a wider variety of scenery I highly suggest the Purgatory Trail north of Durango instead.

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Ashley Potwin
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HikingRocky
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Caycee White
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Hiking

Beautiful! We hiked to the lookout and it was beautiful. Going downhill to get there and then doing the hard part on the way back up. Pretty wildflowers. Plenty of people out with their kids. Saw some people who were backpacking. Also nice for a day hike :)

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Jay Grob
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Hiking

One of my favorite hikes I’ve done in the area. Gorgeous on a summer day. Saw only a few other hikers, no bikes at all. Well worth getting to the bridge, great vistas and drop-offs, the Animas is spectacular. HOWEVER, the 4 miles back up were a bear, 1900 ft elevation gain in 4 miles was a slog, but very happy I did it...and I will return.

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Dana Hall
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Hiking

Did this hike with my boyfriend and mini Australian Shepard yesterday, what an EPIC hike! The views at the beginning of the trail are hands down some of the best I have ever seen and then the change in perspective once you get down to the river is unbeatable as well. The way back up is a bit of a workout, but nothing that you can't handle if you move regularly and are acclimated to the altitude. We brought 6 liters of water and drank every bit of it. Go slow if you need to and don't forget to look around!

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Jarrod Schwieger
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Hiking

Great hike descending upon the Animas River with good views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Trail is well maintained with a few small down trees to cross over. There is a stream to cross near the bottom on two well structured logs that are easy to walk over. The hike back up the switchbacks is a constant grind but not overly steep. Really enjoyed this hike today.

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Brian Murray
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Hiking

Trail in great shape. Must navigate through a few old sections of avalanche debris before ponds going up Elk Creek (follow ribbons).

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Jimmy Lawhon
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Hiking

The trail is in good shape. It was pretty steep for the last two miles and of course coming back up. Awesome views of the Animas while descending the switchbacks and also lots of cool geologic structures seen in the mountain to the west. This was only my second trail in CO coming from near sea level so was quite winded coming back up. This may be moderate to those less than 50 yrs of age but would maybe give it moderate -strenuous in my book.

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Stewart Carnes
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Hiking

Great hike. Beautiful views and scenery. Plenty of parking at the trailhead. Short trail that links to the Colorado Trail. You stay on the Colorado Trail all the way to the river. The trail is in good shape. The loop near the trailhead that takes you beside the lake is a little different.

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Ricky Martini
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Hiking

Down hill trail. The first mile has a short but steep drop, then arrives in a beautiful mellow meadow for a bit. Afterwards pretty much all switch backs to the bottom. Trail is amazing with top notch San Juan views, through forests and aspen groves. At the bottom there is the Animas River, a bridge, and train tracks. We timed it perfectly to be trackside for both trains going to Silverton. Could also hear their engines blowing on the trip back up, as the trains headed back to Durango. Not as many people as expected during peak leaf peeping. As other reviewers mention, 3 miles of constant uphill is a bit of a grind on the way out. Nothing super steep, just constant. 5 star trail for sure.

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Glenn Flick
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Hiking

Short easy hike to Molas lake with great lake and Mountain View’s and reflections.

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Nicky Kunstman
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Hiking

Only did about two miles in and back while camping nearby. Explored a few other spurs around the campground. The stretch I did was easy-moderate with gorgeous views along the way. Took my little Schnauzer along and she loved it. Kept her on-leash due to coyotes in the area the night before. Heard the train below me when u stopped for a break before heading back, just before the steep switchbacks kicked in.

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Chris Quirk
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Hiking

Check the elevation profile! That was a tough one on the way back. Beautiful views though and we timed our Animas River arrival with a train passing. It is quite the beautiful hike.

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Dan Kellermeyer
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Hiking

As others have said, save some energy for the trip back up! Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. Not only are the views outstanding, if you’re a train nerd like me, hearing the train whistle echoing throughout the valley is simply magical.

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David Logsted
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Hiking

Beautiful hike that drops down through meadows and forest to the Animas River. The views of the Animas River Canyon are wonderful. However, if backpacking up this trail to exit the canyon, it's a 4 mile slog up hill. Worth it though!

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B Lynn Wynn
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Hiking

We only hike this to the overlook where we can see the river and train tracks. We arrived at the overlook at about noon in time to catch the train coming around the bend blowing its whistle. Out and back is about 3.6 miles. Gorgeous views of the Grenadiers.

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