Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mayflower Gulch to Gold Hill

Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,996 ft -11,980 ft
Elevation gain: 1,040 ft
Date Hiked: 27 July, 2008
Bathroom at the Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash

Mayflower Gulch is the home of the ruins of the Boston Mine.
The ruins of the Boston Mine stand out against the jagged contours of peaks surrounding Mayflower Gulch.
Mayflower Gulch near Copper Mountain is one of the most stunning hikes in Summit County and is one of my favorite spots to photograph wildflowers. We usually go up at least once every summer to check it out. It never seems to disappoint. 2008 was no exception. The fields were filled with many different species, the clouds were building, providing much needed shade to photograph the colorful ones, and the weather was sublime.

The trail to the back of Mayflower Gulch is a road that quickly disappears into the trees and heads steadily but not outrageously upwards.

Flowers grace the base of one of the cabins of the Boston Mine.
You get to the Mayflower Gulch trailhead by turning off of I-70 at the Copper Mountain and heading towards Leadville. There is a large parking lot on the left around 7 miles up the road. Because of the berm, you may not see it until you pass it. While packed in the winter, there is usually parking available in the summer.

There are many mining remnants in Mayflower Gulch
Looking down on the Boston Mine from part way up the road to Gold Hill.
The trail follows a rocky road (that you can drive if you want) for two miles. Occasional views and mining ruins along the way entertain the hiker but most likely you will be watching your footing and avoiding the streams that pour down during the melt off.

Looking down on the cabins of Mayflower Gulch
The cabins of the Boston Mine seen from the road to Gold Hill
The real fun begins when you exit the trees and enter into Mayflower Gulch's bowl. The picturesque jagged peaks and old cabins of the Boston Mine great the hiker at this point. I am often torn between lounging here to admire the view, continuing up the back bowl to the other ruins, or turning right and heading up the hill to Gold Hill. On this trip, we did it all until the threatening weather finally made us turn for home.

The further up Gold Hill you go, the farther back into the Gulch you can see.
In the summer, the slopes of Mayflower Gulch are verdant green and covered in wildflowers.
The route to the back bowl is quite obvious, simply follow the road.  From two thirds of the way to the end, there are several choices.  You can follow the road itself, bushwhack up the hill to the left, or climb the trail to the right that deadend into an old mine shaft.  All present stunning views back down the valley. Note the mileage listed on this post does not include the diversion to the back bowl. [Note: in 2010, the route to the mining ruin in the far back bowl was closed off for safety reasons].

View from Gold Hill looking south
View from Gold Hill looking southwest towards the Climax Mine retaining pond
Taking a right turn at the cabins and heading up the road to Gold Hill is also a fantastic way to explore the area. In the winter this is a bushwhack but in the summer you can follow a dirt road to the top. Most years there will be a slight scramble over the remaining snow cornice. 2008 was no exception.

View from Gold Hill looking southeast
Looking west across the broad ridge of Gold Hill
Many of the most beautiful wildflowers grow along the broad slope that borders the road to Gold Hill. I like to shove my telephoto lens into the grasses and play with bringing into focus various layers of the flowers. There are so many, it is hard to choose.

The mountain to the west

Once you get to the top of Gold Hill, you might just forget the flowers since the views from the ridge of Gold Hill are extraordinary. The green meadows to the south remind me of the Sound of Music. If you listen carefully, you can hear the opening strains of that musical and I swear Julie Andrews is about to come twirling out into the open.  You are going to want to linger here, so bring lunch and enjoy the phenomenal scenery.  Slightly southwest, you can see the giant retaining pond of the Climax Mine. While not a pretty wilderness sight, its colors do make a nice contrast to all verdant greens.

The mining ruin at the back bowl.  This area is now closed to the public.
White Crowned Sparrow (Zontrichia leucohyrus) nests in the central mountains of Colorado. It feeds on the ground scratching backwards with both feet simultaneously.
Some of you may have already seen my winter Mayflower Gulch post. Summer or winter, Mayflower Gulch is a destination not to be missed.  As a few parting shots I'll include a few obligatory flower pictures to get you motivated.

A close up of Indian Paintbrush
Purple Larkspur
Monkshood (Aconitum columbianum), Bistwort (Bistora bistortoides), unknown yellow aster, Aspen Daisy (Erigeron speciosus)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Absolutely beautiful -- above the tree line. We hiked to the gold mine and I hiked to the top of Gold Hill too. Breathtaking views. Must see. Not enough wild flowers in early June but most years we wouldn't have been able hike this early due to snow. We were lucky.