Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pioneer Union Ditch Snowshoe

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,971 ft to 10,597 ft
Elevation Gain: 626 ft
Dogs: Off leash
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Tags: #snowshoe, #coloradooutdoors
Nearby Snowshoes: Hefferman Gulch Road

Rare "peak-a-boo" along Pioneer Union Ditch
Pioneer Union Ditch near Idaho Springs is a great place to snowshoe if you hate the hordes, love the seclusion of the trees, and don’t mind finding your way. It spends only 0.7 miles on a well-defined path before diving off into a deep valley filled with interlocking mining roads.

Map showing the route up Pioneer Union Ditch

Leaving Leavenworth Road and heading into the Pioneer Union Ditch

The trail begins on north side of Guanella Pass and starts up Leavenworth Creek Road, which heads towards the Waldorf Mine. There was no street sign for this road, but it occurs at the first major switchback coming up from Georgetown. Within 0.7 miles, the route leaves the road, which continues sharply upwards towards the right, and instead dives into Pioneer Union Ditch, following old mining roads that hug the valley floor.

Hard packed snow, dogs and trees.
Typical segment along a road and in the trees
Since this is a valley, it is actually hard to get lost. Persistent power lines head west and Leavenworth Creek Road is 200 yards and several hundred feet above on the right.

Crossing a more open area
Creek Crossing
There is little or no mountain scenery on this trail, but there are Aspens, meadows, and the sound of a crackling brook. On this trip, there was little to no snow for the first 1.5 miles but after that, it picked up. Most of the elevation gain is in the first mile.

Heading back down on Leavenworth Creek Road
While we decided to turn around at 2.5 miles Pioneer Union Ditch continues to parallel Leavenworth Creek Road for miles and miles. As an alternative it is about 6 miles (one way) to the Waldorf Mine.

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