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California Gulch
San Juan County, Colorado
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map

Nearby Towns: Ouray, Silverton
Nearby Trails: Poughkeepsie Gulch, Corkscrew Gulch, Picayne Gulch, Hurricane Pass
Trail Length: 4.26 miles
Elevation: 11,181 to 12,963 feet

This trail is absolutely beautiful from start to finish. Though it isn't a technically challenging trail it does follow very narrow shelf roads. All drivers will need to be very careful.

You can start at either end. This means you can start at Animas Forks at the intersection of California Gulch, Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass, or you can start at Lake Como at the intersection of California Gulch, Poughkeepsie Gulch and Hurricane Pass. This trail connects a lot of trails.

If you start from Lake Como you will enjoy views of the spectacular blue-green lake from very close to it to high above it as you climb to the summit. This road is very narrow so try to see if anyone is coming down before starting up.

It's not a very long trail and you get to California Pass very quickly. You can climb just a short way up to the top on foot and you are treated to an impressive 360-degree view. You can fit quite a few vehicles at the top.

Continuing down from the top of the pass you are on another shelf road as you work your way around the edge of California Mountain and down to the valley below. You can see for miles as you look toward the end of the trail.

You spend awhile on the valley floor and you have a rare opportunity to view the mountains from the base instead of perched on the top of a shelf road like a lot of the other trails in the Ouray area. There are lots of wildflowers and the trip is very nice.

You pass the Frisco Mines and see a couple of well-maintained cabins as well as run-down buildings. Just past these mines is the abandoned town of Animas Forks.

Plan to spend a bit of time in Animas Forks if you can -- there are few towns like this one still left standing. There is a large amount of parking and pit toilets available. You can pick up a brochure and sign the guestbook, then follow the walking tour detailed in the pamphlet to check out the thirteen buildings and items of interest. There is a lot of history and it is very interesting as well as scenic.

Information last updated on September 20th, 2014.

Member Reports

Driving Directions

You can take many different trails to get to either end of California Gulch, including Engineer Pass, Poughkeepsie Gulch, Hurricane Pass, Picayne Gulch, and Cinnamon Pass.

Meeting Places

Meet at the Hot Springs Pool parking lot on Main Street in Ouray.

Additional Information

Low-End Rating: 2
High-End Rating: 2
Rock Crawling:
Dirt & Mud:
Water Crossings:
Cliffs & Ledges:
Climbs & Descents:
Other Activities:
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Trail Photographs

California Mountain Wildflowers Next To The Trail Mines Falling Apart

Trail Movies
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Maps and Coordinates
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Trail in Red
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California Gulch (GPS Exchange File)
California Gulch Track (Google Earth Track)
California Gulch Trailhead (Google Earth Placemark)
Animas Forks (Google Earth Placemark)

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Trail information is only accurate on the date posted. Trails may have changed or closed since that date. Use this information for historical purposes only. Contact the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for up-to-date trail information.

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