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Iron Chest
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.

Member Reports

Driving Directions

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.

Meeting Places

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.

Low-End Rating: 6
High-End Rating: 7
Rock Crawling:
Dirt & Mud:
Water Crossings:
Cliffs & Ledges:
Climbs & Descents:
Other Activities:
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Trail Photographs

Iron Chest Mine buildings Rock Garden Rocky Section Near the Top

Maps and Coordinates
(Click a map to view full size)

Trail in Red
400 x 900 pixels
254 KB

Iron Chest (GPS Exchange File)
Iron Chest Trailhead (Google Earth Placemark)
Iron Chest Track (Google Earth Track)
Iron Chest Mine (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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