Trip Reports: Columbine Lake, Colorado - July 2009

With a day to spare and a blue-sky weather forecast, I decided yesterday that Columbine Lake would be the perfect place to go for a quick overnight backpacking trip.  Situated high on the rolling alpine tundra at 12,685 feet in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado, Columbine Lake is always a great dayhike destination but usually not a wise camping option due to the exposure to lightning (it's almost 2 miles to the safety of the nearest forest).  But with the totally clear weather I didn't have to worry.

I started hiking in the afternoon, and after setting up my tent near the lake, I wandered around the basin checking out the different views and perspectives on the lake.  I could tell that not much would be going on in the basin for sunset photos, so I hiked up a nearby 13,510 ft. peak and watched the sunset from the top.  I hiked back down in the dusk light and by the time I got back to the lake, the full moon was just about to rise over the mountains to the east.  I ended up staying awake until midnight, having a blast taking long exposures in the moonlight.
Wildflowers, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Lush Basin

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Pink paintbrush wildflowers in a lush green basin in July. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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San Juans, Colorado, sunset, summit, photo

Last Light

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Sunset in the San Juans, as seen from the summit of an unnamed 13,510 ft. mountain, looking towards McMillan Peak and the mountains east of Red Mountain Pass. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Columbine Lake, Moon, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Columbine Moon

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Full moon at Columbine Lake, July. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Columbine Lake, Lookout Mountain, sunrise, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Columbine Lake Sunrise

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Sunrise reflection at Columbine Lake - July.  Lookout Mountain, 13,681 ft., is in the background. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Columbine Lake, reflection, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Columbine Lake Reflection

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Morning reflection in Columbine Lake. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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tent, moon, Lookout Peak, Columbine Lake, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Full Moon Tent

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

My Tarptent one-man tent illuminated from within on a full moon night in July.  Lookout Peak and the partially frozen Columbine Lake are behind. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.