First published July 2010
Yesterday was just one of those “I can’t stay inside and work kind of days.” If you are reading this blog, I am sure you know exactly what I am speaking about. The sky was blue, the mountains were clear and the temperature was rising. In fact, I suddenly came down with a bout of “I think I suddenly contracted worktoomuch-itis” and the only true cure at that point is to turn off the cell phone, shut down the computer and get as far away from reality as my feet would carry me.
While much of the country is already reaching high temperatures and well into hiking season, the town of Ouray, Colorado is just now starting to come alive. The snow is melting, trails are clearing and the wildflowers are beginning to make an appearance. As a fresh faced explorer of southwest Colorado, I wanted to get outside with Sienna, but my time was limited so I opted for the near town Sutton Mine Trail. According to residents and local trail guides, this trail –like many in the area- boasts spectacular views of town and the surrounding mountains.
Accessible via Camp Bird Road (CR 361) off Highway 550 (aka the Million Dollar Highway), the Sutton Mine Trailhead is located a quarter mile past the Ouray Ice Park Bridge that passes over the Uncompahgre River on the left hand side. While parking is available at the trailhead it is very limited, overflow cars may park just below the bridge near the Powder House building.
Sutton Mine Trail
All that I have to say about the start of this trail is wowee or maybe even owee! After a winter filled with sporadic activity and much of it spent in a car or sheltered away from sometimes tempestuous weather, yesterday I discovered quickly just how out of hiking condition I am in.
While the trail covers just over 4 miles road trip, the first half mile is steep, not treacherously steep but steep enough to get my heart pumping and leave me panting worse than the dog upon reaching the overlook. According to the Ouray Trail Organization, the trail has an elevation gain of around 900-foot altitude gain en route. As for the overlook, it is well worth the instant climb you experience at the very start of the trail. You may be tempted to sit awhile, take in the beauty and snap an obscene number of photos (at least that was my experience).
Sienna and I sat and gazed down upon Ouray for a bit, enjoyed some water and contemplated the trail ahead. The good news is the trail lets up after this point pretty much until reaching Neosho Mine. Passing open fields, running streams, the trail offers gorgeous views of Mt. Abrams and the Uncompahgre River Gorge. Once you reach Beer Creek Overlook, the Neosho Mine is about 0.6 miles away. Be prepared to take your time along this stretch though. I ended up spending over 20 minutes traversing along the ridge, post-holeing through what little snow was left before becoming mesmerized by a very turbulent and colossal Bear Creek Falls. Sienna and I managed to skirt another small patch of snow before finally reaching Neosho Mine, which is a very well preserved historic site thanks to the efforts of volunteers. You can peek inside windows and again, snap a ridiculous amount of photos if you so desire. The trek back to your car is just as beautiful as you are now looking north towards Twin Peaks and up the canyon.
Sutton Mine Trail was a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon and I highly recommend taking a morning or afternoon to experience it. If, and when, I have a chance to do it over again I would consider packing a lunch to enjoy while sitting in the lush meadows or while sitting in awe of Bear Creek Falls. You may even consider picking up a chocolate, or two (maybe even three), at Mouse’s Chocolates located in town before hitting the trail.