Accessibility Tools

Skip to main content

Horsethief Trail


This trail begins 3.5 miles up the Dexter Creek Road from US Hwy 550; one mile beyond the Dexter Creek Trailhead. You can park near the Dexter Creek Trailhead and walk the final mile to the Horsethief Trailhead, or you can drive to the trailhead, where there is limited parking.  As you walk the final mile to the trailhead, please respect the private land on both sides of the road. The trailhead will be on your right.


Round trip to the Bridge of Heaven is 8.4 miles with an altitude gain of 3,100 feet. The trail climbs slowly along a beautiful forested mountainside to the alpine area behind the Amphitheater. At 0.4 mile and again at 0.7 mile, side trails lead to views of the east face of Whitehouse Mountain. At 1.9 miles, the trail reaches an open area with dramatic views.

In 4.2 miles, the trail reaches the Bridge of Heaven, where the spectacular panorama of mountains makes the climb worthwhile. Here, for a short distance, the trail follows a ridge with a steep dropoff on each side. The elevation of the Bridge is 12,300 feet. Plan for an early start so you can reach this destination before the afternoon showers move in. The trail continues to a junction with Bear Creek Trail to make a 20 mile trip--which may require two days. There is an additional 400 foot altitude gain before the drop to the American Flats. From the junction with the Bear Creek trail, it is about 2.3 more miles on to Engineer Pass.


This trail reaches 12,700 feet, and altitude sickness can be a problem. Past the Bridge of Heaven in Difficulty Creek and American Flats areas, many animal trails can lead to trouble staying on the right trail; however, rock cairns have been placed at strategic locations. Cutting across the tundra to shorten the connection to Bear Creek is not recommended. The high and open sections of this trail provide a risk of hypothermia and blinding hail or snowstorms. Get off the ridges if thunderstorms approach.

Keep in mind that crossing Dexter Creek on your return can be risky if a heavy downpour upstream causes a rapid rise in the creek level. So be aware of weather changes.

  • Hits: 23071

Call 911

Ouray Mountain Rescue, under the direction of the Ouray County Sheriff's Office, is always on call for assistance. The Rescue Team is a volunteer organization of mountaineers, technical climbers, paramedical personnel and a K-9 team. All are experienced in rescue techniques. In order to offset training and equipment expenses, tax-deductible donations are gratefully appreciated. Thank you for your support.

P.O. BOX 220