Engineer Mountain: rewarding hike, exciting summit, engaging run

This is an accessible trail hike that leads you from the west side of Coal Bank Pass to an alpine landscape at the base of Engineer Mountain with an option to reach its 12,970-foot summit.

As the Pass Trail starts out from the large parking lot on the pass, it ascends a relatively mild grade through a tunnel of mountain floral growth that remains pleasant as it winds up. Summers are immaculate for blooming wild flowers before the trail leads through old growth forests. Two ponds are passed in lush settings, the larger one viewed under the Needle Mountains to the southeast, creating a postcard view.

Mountain bikers and equestrians also use this trail, so be aware of other travelers.

At about three miles the trail opens into an alpine tundra and Engineer’s north face and massive basin explode into view. The Engineer Trail intersects Pass Trail here and leads north to the Colorado Trail, or south to Cascade Creek. The steep summit trail continues up the ridge line, overlooking the rock glacier that spills from the mountain, then to a small rock built wind shelter – a fantastic and suitable objective.

Further travel onto the summit calls on scrambling and basic climbing skills. The route follows through a short chimney and the scrambling route is clear and stable for the most part, although a few locations present a degree of exposure and danger. The somewhat narrow summit ridge includes another wind blind, and a faint trail continues west to a lower summit point.

This is a fantastic outing for the whole family, with opportunities for a tremendous alpine experience.