Red Mountain Pass
San Juan County, Colorado
San Juan National Forest
Columbine Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Road: 825
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Silverton, Ouray
Nearby Trails: Black Bear Pass, Corkscrew Gulch, Ophir Pass, Bullion King Lake
Trail Length: 9.72 miles
Elevation: 10,181 to 12,151 feet
If you are in the area to see evidence of the mining that built it up, Red Mountain Pass is the perfect trail. It is a combination of two trails that parallel Highway 550, and the pavement is often within sight. The trail is usually fairly easy, but sightseeing will extend the time it takes to run this trail.
If you start at the north end, you will see the highest concentration of mines and mining equipment first. There is a small area where you can air down, though the trail may not need as it is usually not that bumpy.
You cross a sturdy bridge and you'll start to see random mining buildings almost right away. The Cora Belle Mine is high up above the trail to the left. The Robinson Mine is next, just off the road to the left. These buildings are run down but some are in pretty good shape.
The first building truly worth exploration is the Yankee Girl Mine. There is room to park near it. It was a shaft mine, where workers were lowered into it by a steel cable. There are signs noting its restoration, and a grate has been installed over the shaft to keep things relatively safe. This structure warrants many pictures.
Continuing on through a couple of mild switchbacks, you will next cross through the Genessee Mine and Magnolia Shaft Mine structures. There is a lot to look at in this area. Much of the rail is intact, and many of the buildings look recently used. You should not enter any of the buildings, but it seems fairly safe to walk around them. You can see the highway from here and the overlook that stays on pavement.
After this, the trail cuts south to follow the highway further. In a flat spot, you'll be at the National Bell Mine. There is a short spur here that will take you to the Copper King Mine.
Continue south and turn into the trees, and the trail weaves around and then starts downhill. The next big mine is the Longfellow Mine, with lots of exterior iron still intact. There is not much parking here, but it is worth some exploration.
Just after this, the trail pops out into a pullout area next to the highway. You can leave here, or finish the trail by turning away from the pavement on the next trail. You can see the Longfellow Mine from a different angle, and drive up a short spur to the Koehler Tunnel, which is closed off.
This half of the trail is much different than the first half. It takes you above timberline at times, with fabulous views. You can also see the section of highway near Chattanooga. It is scenic, but there are no mines in this area.
As you get near the end, the Brooklyn Mine has a few buildings ready for pictures, especially some old, rusted equipment.
The trail goes steeply downhill, and eventually you come back out on the pavement. There is plenty of room here to air up, if needed.
Because this trail follows the highway, it is a good one to run either on the way in or out of the area, or with other trails that take you past this section. It is definitely a great way to see some mines and some scenery at elevation.
Information last updated on September 13th, 2008.
From Ouray, travel 10.2 miles to the trailhead on the left.