As-of June 2013
Take Hwy 149 from Lake City to County Road 30 (the Lake San Cristobal turnoff), then about 6.6 miles to trailhead parking.
Quick, short hike or not-so-quick long hike – Williams Creek is one of those something-for-everyone trails for hikers and horseback riders alike. For those with limited time, a trek of about 1.5 miles to a talus slope provides a great, micro-escape into the magical San Juans of Hinsdale County. However, with bright blue skies and a cool, mild breeze beckoning, we chose a close to 6-mile trek to above timberline on Thursday morning, June 20.
Signing in at the trailhead, we left a beautiful flat meadow and hiked primarily "up" the trail, which traverses steep hills, crosses Williams Creek, travels along and above other (somewhat dry) drainages, crosses talus fields, and, almost continuously climbs through pine, fir, aspen and wildflower-laden terrain until it breaks out above timberline. Every now and then, a high meadow provided flatter and open resting places to catch a breath, take pictures, and hydrate.
At about the 2-mile mark the trail crossed a large meadow, eerily "peppered" with the dry bones of a past inhabitant, and joined an old jeep trail. Another 3.5 to 4 miles of uphill climb, with just a few park-like rest points, and we were rewarded with amazing 360-degree views from a 12,000-plus foot precipice above the alpine tundra that adorns the saddle of Grassy Mountain.
This hike to the alpine tundra was well-worth the effort; however, a few trail notes are in order. The "chill" from some fairly high and cold wind gusts above timberline had us happily donning the jackets we had packed. Footing along much of the trail is a bit "tricky," both uphill and especially on the downhill return, so the use of common sense and a hiking stick might make for a happier trekker. Altitude, low humidity, and exertion means bring and drink more water than you think you need. And, should you choose to bring your pup along for the trek, keep it on lead for its sake and that of the wildlife, pack plenty of water for your four-footed friend, and pay attention to its needs as well as your own. (You have boots, pups usually only have pads that may or may not be toughened enough to handle such a rocky trail.)