San Juan County, Colorado
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Nearby Towns: Ouray, Telluride
Nearby Trails: Mineral Creek, California Gulch, Corkscrew Gulch, Hurricane Pass
Trail Length: 3.97 miles
Elevation: 10,143 to 12,546 feet
Named Obstacles: Rock Obstacle
Recommended by Mark
Note that the bypass to the rock obstacle has been closed, and the only route is now over the rock. Illegal routes have been blocked, and winch points are installed.
This trail is probably the most technically challenging trail in the Ouray area. It connects Mineral Creek on one end to California Gulch and Hurricane Pass on the other end. Though it is short it will take awhile, especially if it's wet.
The high rating is because of one difficult area in the middle, the Rock Obstacle. If you travel starting from Mineral Creek you will tackle the obstacle uphill as it is meant to be traveled. There are many routes through the obstacle area, from difficult to really crazy.
The trailhead is well-marked and about 2.5 miles up Mineral Creek. The beginning of Mineral Creek is also fun and rocky so getting to the trailhead is a good time too. The start of Poughkeepsie Gulch is at a large mud puddle with a route around it if you wish to avoid it. It can get very deep so make sure you know what to expect if it has been raining.
Once you start the trail there are a few spurs but try to continue around and up the hill. If you find yourself at an area of mining tailings you are headed in the right direction.
At two miles you find yourself at the base of a large hill covered in small to medium-sized rocks. It is a challenge to get up the hill when it's dry, so take your time if it's wet. At the top you'll climb above timberline and find a fork in the trail. Continue to the right and around the hill. You can see the trail from here as it goes up and around and disappears around a corner. The obstacle is just around the corner.
There is a large parking area at the base of the obstacle with plenty of room to have lunch and watch the action if other people are there. The only way to continue the trail is to go over a large slab of rock with a crack in the middle that can easily tip you over and send you to the bottom if a tire slips in. You probably won't be injured but your vehicle will be worse for wear if you flip over.
In the middle are a couple of other lines that range from a very difficult "V" to a challenging hill of rock covered in dirt. These lines are not for the timid.
All lines are difficult and passing may be impossible if the trail is wet. Luckily you can return to the trailhead and continue with Mineral Creek if you can't make it. Note that there are many winch points at the top of the rock obstacle, so if you have a winch you will definitely make it to the top, even in the rain.
If you make it to the top of the obstacle you continue through rocky areas with some fun sections of technical trail. There are a few spurs here and there but most of them connect to each other eventually (some dead end). Finally you come to Lake Como, a gorgeous blue-green lake surrounded by mountains.
You end up at the 3-way intersection of Poughkeepsie Gulch, California Gulch and Hurricane Pass. Take California Gulch to get to Animas Forks, Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass. Take Hurricane Pass to get to Corkscrew Gulch and back to Highway 550.
Information last updated on September 7th, 2008.
Take Highway 550 south from Ouray 3.7 miles until you see a large dirt area to the left of the highway. This is the trailhead for Mineral Creek and it is marked with a large sign pointing to Engineer Pass. Follow Mineral Creek 2.5 miles to the Poughkeepsie Gulch trailhead on the right next to a sign and a large mud puddle.
Meet at the Hot Springs Pool parking lot on Main Street in Ouray.