The San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado offer cool refreshing relief from the extreme summer heat! The base of these mountains start at the mile high level and there are several 14,000 foot tall peaks way uphill. With every few thousand feet higher in elevation, the average temperature drops by a few degrees, which is quite an incentive to do the trip. By the time a visitor gets way up to a destination in the San Juan Mountains like Molas Lake, they will be over 10,000 feet up and it can be chilly sweater weather even in July. Just the thought of this while baking in the 120ºF extreme heat of the Mojave Desert is a good enough reason to get up and go!
There are relatively few lakes high up in the San Juan Mountains that are located next to a paved road, but Molas Lake is an exception. The dirt road that goes to the Molas Lake Park & Campground is only a few hundred yards long and it is well maintained during the summer season, so a passenger car with higher than average ground clearance can get to this lakeside campground. During the winter the access to Molas Lake is not easy, because the dirt road turns into an icy mud pit. For those who cannot traverse the access road, there is a parking area next to the highway and a hiking trail to Molas Lake can be found there too.
The Molas Lake Park & Campground is a fee area and this is a popular destination, so it is best to make reservations ahead of time if camping out in this beautiful setting is in the plans. There also are several San Juan National Forest primitive campsites on the western side of the paved highway, which do present boondocking options. All it takes is one look at the photos to see why Molas Lake Park is such a desirable place to campout, because this is one of the most picturesque high elevation landscapes to be found anywhere in these mountains!
The photos in this article were shot early in the month of July and as can be seen, the remnants of the heavy winter snow pack are still intact. It can take a long time for the highest mountains to thaw out after a heavy winter and this can maximize the water levels in the creeks and rivers. The waterfalls in the mountains will be roaring and the small little water crossings can look more like river rapids during a long snow melt season, so care must be taken when fly fishing or white water rafting. At the mountain lakes, there is not much to worry about and when the lakes are full, the fishing is even better.
The Molas Lake Park & Campground property was awarded to the nearby town of Silverton long ago, so this actually is a city park, even though it is located deep inside the San Juan National Forest territory. The Molas Lake Park website is separate from the National Forest Service website too, so this is good to keep in mind when seeking more information about activities and campsite reservations. There are few other lakeside destinations in these mountains that offer both the ease of access and the majestic views that Molas Lake Park boasts. Doing a camping, hiking and fly fishing venture in this picturesque place certainly will create pleasant memories that last a lifetime!
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