Chaffee County, Colorado
San Isabel National Forest
Salida Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Trail Type: Out and Back
Nearby Towns: Buena Vista, Johnson's Village
Nearby Trails: Mount Antero, Boulder Mountain, Grizzly Lake, Tincup Pass, Mount Princeton, Hancock Pass, Pomeroy Lakes
Trail Length: 2.6 miles
Elevation: 10,112 to 11,963 feet
Named Obstacles: Rock Garden
Recommended by Matt K.
Recommended by Terry
The boulders at the start of the trail were moved to the sides from late summer 2003 to late summer 2004, making it an easy trail during that period.
Iron Chest is a very short trail but it is extremely challenging due to the Rock Garden, a long boulder field near the start of the trail. The boulders are very large and most of them are loose, making the trail change after every vehicle. It is probably too challenging for stock vehicles and may be too challenging for some modified vehicles. Prepare for a little trail damage, and make sure you have good protection (skid plates, guards, etc.). Rocker panel protection is mandatory.
The trail starts out at a small parking area, immediately passing a foot trail marked "Grizzly" that goes to Grizzly Lake (this is not the 4x4 Grizzly Lake trail). You begin climbing up the Rock Garden in the gulch-like area full of moving boulders, then it opens up to gorgeous views between the trees. The trail is surrounded by aspen trees, forming a tunnel over the trail, so one of the best times to run Iron Chest is in the fall when the leaves are changing.
At least one locker will help you through these boulders, and you shouldn't go alone just in case you have to leave your vehicle. There are some lines that take you over massive boulders, giving this trail its high rating.
When you start to see the trees thinning you will come to a rocky section that will challenge the less-modified vehicles though it shouldn't be an issue for larger, more modified vehicles. It is a short area and not on a shelf road. There are shelf roads you must drive along, however. They are narrow in some places.
Once you get to the top you are treated to very well-preserved mining buildings at the Iron Chest Mine. Be careful in this area, there are mine shafts and other holes in the ground all around. Take time to explore and take lots of pictures.
You will return the way you came. Most areas will make it difficult if you encounter other vehicles coming in the opposite direction, so you may want to send a "scout" ahead to look for oncoming offroaders. The rock garden is just as difficult on the way out as it is on the way in, though you will be going downhill this time so gravity may help you or hurt you.
Information last updated on September 26th, 2015.
- September 26th, 2015: ran by Matt K., Mike C. and Monica
- August 21st, 2010: ran by Mark U., Matt K. and Terry
- September 2nd, 2007: ran by Bill S., Jed, Ladd and Robert
- October 7th, 2006: ran by Cheryl, Dane, Jeff L., Mark G., Mike S. and Monica
- October 22nd, 2005: ran by Bob S., Cheryl and Dane
- October 11th, 2003: ran by Ladd, Monica and Tom B.
- September 21st, 2002: ran by Dave R., Monica and Ryan
Take Highway 285 from Denver to Route 162 near Nathrop. Take 162 west 15 miles to turn left on Hancock Road 295. After about half of a mile you will see a small parking area on your left (the third left). The trail starts from here.
Meet in Conifer on Highway 285 at the Bradley gas station. Those coming from Colorado Springs will want to meet at Johnson's Village instead and not come that far north.