Hope Lake
Difficulty Moderate
Length of hike 6.8 mi. RT (to lake)
Starting Elevation 10720 ft.
Top Elevation 12440 ft.
Type of Vehicle 4WD
Distance to Trailhead 36.5 miles
GPS track download Hope Lake Track
Hiking time up 2 hours (Pass)
Hiking time down 1:50 hours

Directions to Trailhead
From the Traffic light in Ridgway, drive 31 miles south on Highway 550 past Ironton and over Red Mountain Pass. Look for Cty. Rd. 7 on the right (Mineral Campground). Continue on that road past the campground for 6.5 miles to the Bandora Mine on the right and park.


HL map
HL ele



Hope Lake can be visited from the Telluride side by driving past Trout Lake and continuing on an occasionally rough road to the trailhead.

This trip starts on the east side of the pass that separates the Mineral Creek drainage from the valley that leads down to the Illium valley past Hope and Trout Lakes. Both lakes are part of the hydropower system that feeds the famous Ames power plant that made history at the turn of the century. Lucien L. Nunn, owner of the Gold King mine, realized that he could not maintain profitability using the existing steam-powered equipment and decided to contract George Westinghouse to build an AC power plant at Ames. Westinghouse used the patents of an engineering genius, Nikola Tesla, to design the equipment and in the process decided the future course of the electrical power industry. The project, completed in 1891 and using a power line of 2.6 miles in length, was such a huge success that the operators of the Camp Bird mine soon brought AC power across Imogene Pass.


And while you are in the Telluride area you can visit the Ames power plant, which is still in operation. Here are more details. The Nunn brothers with their Telluride Power Company and the famous Pinhead Institute actually conducted research on synchronizing the Ames and Ouray hydroelectric power stations over the 30 mile long 3-phase line leading over Imogene Pass.


The hike starts at the Bandora Mine, an unimpressive producer containing some beautiful minerals nevertheless, and much of the walk is on a road that was built from the Bandora Mine to the vicinity of the pass. It seems to be a road to nowhere that ends below the pass and may have been built to access a mine that is not visible and may never have been started. The climb is steady and gradual with fine views into the valley of the South Fork of Mineral Creek, passes the Big Three Mine on the right and the Rolling Mountain Mine on the left, and eventually leads to a steeper trail that crosses the pass. The view from the pass is spectacular down to Hope Lake and Trout Lake below. A short walk from the pass leads to Hope Lake but the pass is a worthwhile destination with fine views and opportunities to scramble up the ridge for more impressive vistas.


There are a couple of ponds in the valley just below the Bandora mine at the start of the hike that occasionally get visited by Moose. If you are lucky, you just may spot a Moose or two browsing in the pond.