Old mule trails left from the days of hardrock mining, offer adventurous explorations around the hut, many of which do not show on popular maps. Many short hiking loops leave right from the back door of the hut. There are four alpine lakes within two miles of the OPUS, and more a little further out, great for an afternoon dip or fish in larger Columbine lake. Off trail above treeline, endless meadows of alpine wildflowers beckon with peak blooms in the end of June and early August. Here’s a few approach hikes and classic link ups:
Experience the best high country out of Telluride, in true European fashion. Take the Gondola to the top of San Sophia station and climb to the Alpino Vino restaurant saddle. Take the Nellie Mine road dropping into upper Bear creek and the Wasatch trail. Follow the Wasatch trail into the upper east fork of Bear creek and over to McCarron Junction in Bridal Veil Basin.
From here, traverse upper Bridal Veil basin, past Lewis Lake to Columbine pass, and over to Columbine lake.
There are two optional routes to the OPUS from Columbine Lake.
Via Ruby Lake :
The most direct but technically challenging route to the OPUS from Columbine Lake is to Descend to a small lake known as Ruby Lake.
From the east end of Columbine lake, climb 200+ feet on grassy slopes to a small col (pass).
There are two cols here that lead down into Ruby lake, take the right hand one , follow a slippery game trail down towards the visible small lake in the the basin below, “Ruby Lake”, unnamed on the maps. From the southeast end of Ruby lake there is an old mule trail descending to the south of the lake. Follow this down 400+ feet to a bench where the obvious trail swicthbacks down below you.
At the bench there is another old trail on the right traversing above a small cliff band . Follow this trail traversing to the south, above the cliff and then turning west around the ridge and onto grassy south facing slopes.
From this point, the hut can be seen in front of you to the west, in front of Ophir pass. The trail is faint but marked with cairns and orange marker flags.
Via the Columbine Lake Trail :
There is also an technically easier option from Columbine Lake to the hut.
You can also follow the Columbine Lake trail proper, descending east toward highway 550. Just before you reach treeline there is a large visible game trail out of the drainage to your right (south). Follow this game trail over the ridge then descend following a faint trail marked with cairns. This trail will take you southeast to treeline then into the trees amongst open meadows. Follow cairns to a more visible trail leaving these meadows heading west just below 11,800 ft. This trail traverses all the way to the OPUS at treeline (11,800 ft.). You will cross two open avalanche slide paths then come into a large open meadow. Cross three creek drainages then follow the obvious trail out of the drainage continuing south then west. The trail will intersect with a four wheel drive road, follow the road for 500 feet, then leave it on single track at a creek crossing. Back on the trail, it will cross and open bowl (“The Sound of Music”) then climb to the hut (400 vertical feet).
Link up the lodges on Red Mountain Pass with Ophir pass.
Starting from Red Mountain pass there are two options. Your goal is Porphyry Basin, high above the pass to the Southeast. To get there you can take either the Mineral Basin Road, Forest Rd. 823, or the Porphyry Basin Rd. Which is Forest Rd. 822.
Once you’ve reached Porphyry Basin cross the basin to the south east between the five alpine lakes. staying at 12,800 ft. as you leave Porphyry Basin traverse around the next Cirque to the south with two 13,000 ft. peaks above you on the west.
Next you will come to the Columbine lake basin, head for Columbine lake on easy alpine terrain.
From Columbine Lake follow either route described above in the Telluride route description.
The Columbine Lake trail from it’s trail head off of highway 550 is a better option during stormy weather. Follow the trail to treeline then look for the large game trail traversing out of the basin to the climbers left, heading south, then follow the route described above in the Telluride route, from that same point.
See the best high alpine lakes in the San Juans.
To get to Hope lake drive to the Hope lake trailhead on forest Rd. 627 which leaves Rd 626 at the far southeast end of Trout lake. The trailhead is two miles up the Rd. from Trout lake, on 627.
Follow the well marked Hope lake trail to 11,600 ft. then traverse northeast across a large bench and climb to the saddle between Beattie Peak and Fuller Peak. Climb the south rib of Fuller Peak to the Summit.
From the summit of Fuller Peak, descend north into Ice Lakes Basin. Traverse Ice Lakes drains into the Howards Fork Valley.
From this high saddle, climb on the ridge to the east to 13,000 ft. You will see Clear Lake below you to the north. Descend to Clear Lake. From the north side of Clear Lake Climb over the ridge north into Paradise Basin. The better places to cross the ridge are on its west end; the east Ridge of South Lookout Peak. Descend upper Paradise Basin to 11,300 ft. and watch for a good foot trail heading north at that elevation. Follow this trail the “Paradise Basin trail ” on east facing grassy slopes which will lead you to the Ophir Pass Road. Before you reach the road you will see the hut above and straight in front of you. Once you reach the rd. follow it to the parking area then take the foot trail to the hut.