This weekend’s training hike was a little different. I didn’t take my backpack or wear my hiking boots, but I did hike at a slightly higher elevation than normal and did cover some steep terrain. So I’ve decided it all evens out. We took a girls’ trip to Ouray, Colorado (that’s YOU-RAY, emphasis on the “ray”) for a friend’s birthday and decided to incorporate some hikes. Adelle found a great one called the Sutton Mine Trail.
Though you’d think this trail would actually take you to the Sutton Mine, it doesn’t yet. It does, however, take you to some awesome overlooks of Bear Creek, U.S. Hwy 550 (Red Mountain Pass) and the Neosho Mine and its remaining outbuildings. If you’re a mine/history buff at all, this approximately 5-mile round-trip hike is one you should do!
The trail begins just as you leave Ouray to head to Red Mountain Pass. At the first switchback turn onto Camp Bird Mine road, just past the Ice Park, you’ll see the sign for the trail. There is almost no parking; we drove a little ways past the trail, turned around and parked on the side of the road (which, by the way, is very exposed on one side).
The first half mile of the trail is very steep. I’m pretty sure ALL the 900 feet of elevation the trail claimed we’d gain was done in that half mile. Okay, it probably wasn’t, but it felt like it. This portion is also exposed in places, so if that’s a problem for you, maybe pick a different trail. It does have lots of switchbacks; after each switchback the trail flattens out for a bit. We were grateful because this gave us a chance to catch our breath before the next steep section.
Soon the trail tops out and the next almost 1.5 miles are through high tundra and meadows filled with rocks and claret cactus (which I thought was bizarre considering we were in the mountains). It’s flatter here, with only a short hill here or there.
Soon we reached the Bear Creek overlook. If you stop here and turn around, you’ll only have a 4-mile round trip hike.
It’s another .5 miles from here to the Neosho Mine. The trail grows a little fainter in places but also passes a few ponds where I’m sure, at the right times, you can spot moose! Soon we passed the rusted out tram lines and began to encounter outbuildings.
When we finally reached the mine area we were all just in awe. The buildings are so well preserved, the tram rails are still there, and the entrance to the mine is there too! There is a clothesline from the old boarding house on which modern-day tourists have begun to leave clothes. From Hwy 550, if passengers look up and across the gorge, they can see this clothesline and the “Antiques” sign on the front of the building.
We had a great time just wandering around checking out all the buildings and taking photos before our return trip to the car.
The trip back down was mostly uneventful until the last half mile. It was so steep that even with my trekking pole I had to move very carefully and slowly to avoid a crash. We all just took our time, not wanting to end up with a broken ankle. Eventually we made it back to the car. The trip took us about 3 hours; even though it wasn’t that long, it was very steep in places. We also did stop to take a lot of photos.
I think after my four training hikes I feel fairly prepared for our backpacking trip. My legs are used to hiking again (though my calves are yelling at me right now) and I’m used to my pack again. I know Dad has been training as well, so we should all be in peak backpacking condition. Stay tuned for photos and a long trip report!