While Smelter Mountain is known as one of Durango's classic in-town hikes, the ascent is far from easy.


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FATMAP difficulty grade



The hike up Smelter Mountain begins just off the highway at an easily-accessible trailhead...

but it doesn't stay easy for long.

Right out of the gate, the trail begins ascending the steep flanks of Smelter Mountain, climbing a rocky face that will require using your hands for a few scrambly bits.

You'll be faced with a series of rock slabs, boulders, rock gardens, and steep singletrack.

These steep, rock-scrambly bits earn this hike its FATMAP "Severe" rating...

but thankfully, after the initial ascent, the hike mellows out substantially. After passing an overlook on the shoulder of the ridge, the grade flattens out dramatically into a pleasant ridgeline walk.

In fact, you'll exchange the narrow trail for a wide dirt path and then spend some time walking along a dirt access road that runs along the ridge. The dirt (and sometimes broken-down blacktop) road is in place to serve a series of cell phone towers, radio towers, and other communication arrays that serve the city of Durango and the surrounding area.

While not the most natural of settings, these towers need to go somewhere, so apparently, this is the place.

In a few spots, you'll see narrow social trails that cut straight along the ridge, but sometimes it's actually easier to take a slightly longer mileage walk on the road to avoid some of the steep up-and-down climbs. You'll need to walk along the ridge for over a mile to reach the designated top of Smelter Mountain, at 7,725ft.

While the top isn't very marvelous, you'll enjoy spectacular views over Durango, Perins Peak, the Hogback area directly below you, and the La Platas forming a scenic skyline in the distance. Once done enjoying the view, turn around and retrace your steps back down the mountain.