- 75 miles southwest of Gunnison near Lake City
- 6.4 mile roundtrip
- 4 to 5 hours
- Trailhead Elevation:
- 11300 feet
- Elevation Change:
- 2748 feet
- July - October
American Basin Trail offers views of one of the most scenic basins in the San Juan Mountains. It is especially spectacular from late July through mid-August when showy wildflower displays form a colorful carpet in the basin. Scenic Sloan Lake, home of the threatened Colorado cutthroat trout, can be reached by way of the American Basin Trail. Hiking can continue up to Handies Peak, one of five l4,000 foot peaks in the area.
Impressive scenery in American Basin attracts jeepers throughout the summer. For those with 2 wheel drive vehicles, park along the side of the main road and an easy 3/4 mile walk can be made to the trailhead near the site of an old mine. From there, the trail climbs to Sloan Lake to offer magnificent views of Handies Peak and the surrounding basin. The trail to Handies Peak continues on from Sloan Lake. Please be careful to stay on the trail to avoid erosion on the fragile tundra. The peak, at 14,048 feet, offers a panoramic view of the San Juan Mountains.
Be prepared for typical July and August afternoon thundershowers. Avoid the peak, ridges and open areas during a storm. It is best to get an early start. Plan to be off the peak by noon or 1:00 p.m. Be sure to bring along sunscreen, raingear and drinking water. Remember, hiking at high altitude requires more time and energy. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and avoid overexertion. Be sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
Parking is available at the trailhead and a few small places along the side of the main road. Minimum Impact Camping is permitted near the trailhead.
Handies Peak 14,048 ft.
Map + Directions
Lake City is 60 miles southwest of Gunnison on Hwy 149.
From Lake City take Highway 149 south, 2.5 miles. Turn right onto the road to Lake San Cristobal. Follow paved road approximately 4 miles, then continue on dirt road for about 16.3 miles. The American Basin road begins at a fork where a sign reads "Cinnamon Pass/American Basin. American Basin is to the left. It is a rough 2-wheel drive road to the American Basin turnoff and a 4-wheel drive road to the trailhead. No motor vehicles are allowed beyond the trailhead.