Ouray County, Colorado
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Nearby Towns: Ouray, Silverton
Nearby Trails: Poughkeepsie Gulch, California Gulch, Hurricane Pass
Trail Length: 4.67 miles
Elevation: 9,752 to 12,257 feet
If you enjoy the red-colored mountains in the Ouray area you will really enjoy Corkscrew Gulch. There are three red mountains on Red Mountain Pass -- their names are Red Mountain Number 1, Red Mountain Number 2 and Red Mountain Number 3. This trail climbs between Red Mountains 1 and 2 as it connects highway 550 to Hurricane Pass and highway 11. It is also short enough to make a nice shortcut.
On Highway 550 south of Ouray there is a large, flat rocky area that looks like a dam very close to the road. It's marked "Tailings Ponds" on the topo map and it's not actually a dam. The trailhead is on the left side of the ponds and the trail runs along the left side and up and around the ponds. The trail is easy to find if you remember to circle the ponds.
You will start to climb right away and the climb is pretty steep though it is not technically challenging. It is usually covered in potholes that can get fairly deep. If wet, this could be a mess.
Once you come out of the big trees you'll see the Red Mountains. They tower over the trail and are very impressive. You'll be able to see the trail as you climb up the Red Mountain in a series of switchbacks. These switchbacks are tight but not as tight as many others on trails in the Ouray area.
Once you get to the top there is parking on the side of the narrow trail for about three vehicles. The top is level, and the views are gorgeous.
There is a short spur that leaves from here and takes you to an overlook of the valley and trail you were just on. The spur has some shelf roads and a couple of tight switchbacks. The views of the red mountains and the valley below at the end of the spur are worth the trip. At the end of the spur take a sharp right down a small hill to find parking for seven or eight vehicles, or find another wide spot farther along.
Return back to the main trail and you will head downhill quite quickly. There is a modern pit toilet on the right just before the end of the trail. The road is steep but fairly smooth.
Continue on your way down and you will come to the intersection with county road 11 and a sign pointing up to Corkscrew Gulch the way you came down. Turn right here to go to Silverton, or left to take Hurricane Pass.
Information last updated on September 20th, 2014.
From Ouray take Highway 550 south 6.5 miles and turn at the large structure of rocks on your left that looks like a dam. The trailhead is on the left side of the structure.
Meet at the Hot Springs Pool parking lot on Main Street in Ouray.