Book Lodging

Exploring Mining Roads

Sunday • September 7, 2014

The area around Telluride is filled with old mining roads, and I never tire of exploring new ones. 

Yesterday, on a whim, I headed over to Silverton for lunch.  With a jeep, this trip takes about an hour from Telluride when going over Ophir Pass.  As always, it was beautiful, but I’ve been over it so many times that I didn’t even take the camera out of its case.  The plan was to go back to Telluride right after lunch, but I decided to head up highway 110, which heads northeast of Silverton.

Just a mile or two out of Silverton is the Mayflower Mill, and across form the mill is roadside sign that describes Arrastra Gulch.  Seeing a road that led into the area, I decided to follow it.  My expectation was that I would run out of road very quickly, but that proved to be incorrect.  I was surprised by how good of shape the road was in.  In fact, during the 2 ½ hours that I explored the Arrastra Gulch area, I only found a couple of spots where a high clearance vehicle might be necessary.  However, 4WD is definitely recommended, especially towards the tops of the trails. 

There’s very little in the way of signs, and I didn’t happen to bring a map.  However, it’s pretty hard to get lost.  The first road I found ended up taking me to the Mayflower Mine.  This involved a few miles of ascent, ultimately reaching 11,300 feet (according the GPS in the jeep).  Having never been on this road before, I got a bit nervous after clearing tree line and the road steepened and narrowed.  However, the road ended in a spot with plenty of space to turn around.  At the top, I was rewarded with sweeping views and a pile of rusting mining debris. 

On the way down, I decided to investigate other roads that I guessed would end at private property.  In a couple of places, that turned out to be true.  No big deal – just turn around and try another road.  Luckily, I ended up on a road that brought me close to the Big Giant Mine.  This was my favorite road because it ended near a beautiful alpine lake, just above tree line. 

None of the roads that I drove on had much traffic.  In the 2 ½ hours that I explored, I don’t think I saw even a dozen people and fewer cars.  One possible reason for the lack of traffic is that all the roads ended in a dead end.  The only people there were people who really wanted to be there.

I suspect that this will be a fabulous place to take pictures of the fall colors.  At this point, though, all I saw were a couple of aspens that had turned at the very tops of the trees.  Give it a couple of weeks, and this area will be covered with gold.