Peak(s):  Square Top Mtn A  -  13,794 feet
Date Posted:  08/19/2019
Date Climbed:   08/17/2019
Author:  smackberry
 Loop over Square Top from Silver Dollar Lakes  

The official route to Square Top is from Guanella Pass, but with frequent variations that include a big loop over to Argentine and Wilson and down through Silver Dollar Lake basin (sometimes running into private property issues). We weren't about to tackle such a loop, but we thought we could reach Square Top by going up the normal Silver Dollar Lake trail, attaining the ridge between Argentine and Square Top, descending the normal Square Top trail to Guanella, and then taking what we thought was a (faint / social) trail that runs from Guanella Pass to the Silver Dollar trailhead to close the loop. All of this was easily done except the last bit, because the connecting trail at the end was closed for reforestation. We could have walked down the road, but we just got a ride from someone at Guanella. The whole day was awesome and worked out just as we hoped.

We parked at the Silver Dollar lot and took the normal Silver Dollar Lakes trail to the uppermost lake (Murry Reservoir). At that point the trail ends, but it's an easy cross-country route to attain the ridge between Square Top and Argentine.

From Murry Lake, the view of the ridge. Easiest route is the obvious grassy ramp on the right.

The route to the ridge was very gentle and gorgeous. The wind was incredible, though, sustained at about 50mph. Very unnerving, but nothing about it was dicey, since the ridge was so wide. The whole route was class 1-2, no exposure whatsoever.

Just starting ascent from the ridge to Square Top, Argentine Peak looming behind, Grays and Torreys sticking up in the center background.

There was no solid, bedded-in trail, but social trails appeared frequently to ease the way. It got rockier and rockier along the climb to the top.

The final stretch - a pile of rocks. Not too loose, footing not-terrible.

The wind eased considerably once we got away from the ridge and the western edge of the summit (which was big and broad and relatively flat). We spent quite a bit of time taking in the views in all directions.

Views west - Shelf Lake is the prominent lake in the center

View east - our routes up and down. Silver Dollar Lakes on the left, Square Top Lakes on the right.

The trail off of Square Top wasn't super easy to find, since we didn't come up that way, but it was obvious how to go. Once you get to the east end of the summit ridge, start bearing right to gentler terrain, you'll eventually see it.

The descent was waaaaay steeper than the ascent. The "trail" is just a straight-up-the-slope social trail.

After leaving Silver Dollar Lakes, and before we got down to Square Top Lakes, we saw fewer than 10 other people on the upper mountain. Even the official Square Top trail looked barely used, as it was faint and covered with grass. The trail ends at the Bierstadt trailhead, so views on the way down are of Bierstadt and Evans and that whole range. So, not boring. :-)

The last couple of miles are gentle, rolling terrain, but every bit above treeline, of course.

At Guanella Pass, we discovered that the trail we thought would close the loop was closed, but we were pretty tired and not sad to get a ride instead (it was easy to do - plenty of people at the Pass, and the first people we asked were happy to oblige). The ride to our car just took a few minutes, it was two miles via the road.

Our route, but my watch battery died towards the end.

My Garmin stats to just short of the end were 8.5 miles and just over 3k feet of (cumulative) gain. It was probably more like 9.5 miles to the pass, and closing the loop via the road would add two miles. It was a great hike!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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