Fall Colors 2020 | King Solomon Mountain & Little Giant Peak
Friday & Saturday, September 25-26, 2020
After spending a few days last week on a relaxing river trip through Meander Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, it was time for me to squeeze in one last visit to the mountains before I start heading back into the desert until next summer. Earlier this year I had set a personal goal to try to hike at least 30 summits this summer and I was at 29 as of Friday, so I needed to get in at least one more peak to meet that goal. Since I also needed to start preparing for another long trip starting next weekend, I wanted to stay closer to home and decided to try to climb a pair of peaks from Little Giant Basin near Silverton on Saturday morning. As usual, I left right after work on Friday and took the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton. The fall colors were looking very nice this weekend, so I stopped for a couple of photos along the way…
A collage of color along Red Mountain Creek.
Cliffside color along the Million Dollar Highway.
Red Mountain No. 3 from near the Idarado Mine.
Shortly after leaving Silverton I drove up the steep and narrow road into Little Giant Basin from Arrastra Gulch. I think it’s been over ten years since the last time I was up here and this time there was one section of the road that was collapsing over the edge and very narrow. I certainly wouldn’t want to meet another vehicle at that point!
This is the view from Gold Lake at the end of the road where I would be spending the night.
The Little Giant Basin Road
The view from Little Giant Basin shortly before sunset.
Exploring Little Giant Basin before the sun went down with the moon rising over the saddle between King Solomon Mountain and Little Giant Peak.
The warm golden light was looking nice on the north ridge of King Solomon Mountain, probably enhanced by all the smoke in the air.
King Solomon Mountain above the road into Little Giant Basin.
It was a beautiful fall evening in Little Giant Basin.
Once the sun was down, I returned to Gold Lake and listened to a podcast for a while before going to sleep. Overnight the wind started to pick up a bit and I could hear it gusting loudly at times. I knew it was supposed to get pretty windy along the Front Range this weekend, but I was under the impression that it wasn’t supposed to be as windy in the San Juans, so I hoped the forecast was correct! Aside from the occasional gusting winds waking me up, I slept pretty well and was pleasantly surprised to find that the temperature only dropped down to 45 degrees when I woke up before sunrise, although it felt much cooler when the wind was blowing.
After getting ready I drove back down a short distance from the lake and parked near where the trail met the road and starting hiking to the saddle. The trail I was following was another part of the Hardrock 100 course, so it was pretty easy to follow. As I started hiking I could really tell that I had taken last weekend off from hiking in the mountains as I was out of breath quickly!
I turned around and could see the hazy glow of dawn on the mountains behind me. I guess there was still plenty of smoke in the air this morning.
The magenta clouds were looking nice behind Little Giant Peak (13,416).
Little Giant Peak at Sunrise
Morning light on Little Giant Peak
When I reached the saddle I started climbing to the summit of King Solomon Mountain first.
Looking back across the saddle to Little Giant Peak.
The view over into the Weminuche Wilderness was nice, but shortly after sunrise a bank of clouds moved in and made it overcast out until I was almost done with my hike this morning.
Looking down into Cunningham Gulch.
Once I reached the top of the false summit there was a narrow ridge to follow to the actual summit of King Solomon Mountain (13,220), which is the high point right in the middle.
The ridge on the other side of the summit was not as rocky or narrow and looked like a fun walk.
After returning to the saddle I started hiking to the summit of Little Giant Peak next. I followed the trail from the saddle around to the south face of the peak and scrambled up a loose rocky chute to reach the ridge again. Here’s a view over Little Giant Basin as I neared the summit.
On the summit of Little Giant Peak.
From the summit I could see Silver Lake over in Arrastra Basin to the west.
Looking to the south I had a good view of the Grenadier Range over Mount Rhoda.
Here’s the view down into Dives Basin as I started my descent back to the trail.
Following the ridge back down…
Below the rugged east ridge of Little Giant Peak.
When I was back on the trail I headed over the saddle again into Little Giant Basin.
The trail up near the saddle seemed to have quite a few of these posts along it, which I think were made from old mine railway tracks.
It figures that the sun finally started coming out again when I was almost back to my Jeep.
This is the Contention Mine Tramhouse located near the trailhead.
After driving back down to Silverton, and thankfully not running into any other vehicles coming up the narrow road, I arrived just in time to grab a burger for lunch from the Kendall Mountain Cafe. Then I continued on my way home with only two short stops in Ironton Park for a few more photos of the fall colors.