Hiking near Breckenridge: Mayflower Gulch-Boston-Gold Hill | SummitDaily.com
Mary Ellen Gilliland
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Hiking near Breckenridge: Mayflower Gulch-Boston-Gold Hill

Mayflower Gulch is one of the best hikes in Colorado

Boston Ghost Camp

Time: 2 hours

Distance: 1.8 miles one way

Elevation gain: 765 feet

High point: 11,645 feet

Rating: Easy

Usually open: Late June-September

Topo: USGS Copper Mountain

Gold Hill

Time: 3 hours

Distance: 3 miles one way

Elevation gain: 1,200 feet

High point: 11,920 feet

Rating: More difficult

Usually open: Late June-September

Topo: USGS Copper Mountain

Hike near Breckenridge, CO on the Mayflower Gulch trail below Fremont Pass echoing with gold and silver frenzy. The Boston mine camp (now a ghost town) and many mine ruins remain to intrigue hikers. You can add length and challenge to this easy hike by climbing adjacent Gold Hill. This gold-pocketed ridge dazzled early prospectors (and dazzles present-day hikers with views). Since you will be hiking upwards above timberline on this trail, hikers should complete the high-altitude portion early in the morning to avoid exposure to electrical storms.

Two glacier-carved amphitheaters await hikers on the Mayflower to Gold Hill trail. Boston, an early log mine camp, its ruined cabins evocative of another era, makes a nice side trip for the longer hike and a fun destination for an easy, short hike near Breckenridge.

Take the hike

Head toward Copper Mountain for this hike near Breckenridge. Drive Highway 91 south 6.2 miles from Interstate 70 exit 195 at Copper Mountain toward Leadville. Watch for the trailhead on your left. The turn comes up quickly after you glimpse the rock-walled deep valley that is Mayflower Gulch. Turn left carefully, and park.

This Colorado hiking trail begins on an old ore wagon road and may be shared with jeepers and mountain bikers. On a moderate climb through evergreen forest, you see Mayflower Creek and its adjacent wetlands on the left. Soon signs of Mayflower Gulch's beehive mining history appear: A cabin yard at left displays rusty mine equipment. Later, an ore chute at right shows how miners employed gravity to move heavy ores for loading into wagons.

Deep in the trees from its start, the trail now bursts from shadows into the Mayflower amphitheater, a magnificent curve of wild schist-rock ridge with 13,995-foot Mount Fletcher as its capstone. Northeast, Crystal and Pacific peaks also vie for attention. Notice the fork in the road.

The Boston mine camp once occupied this splendid setting. Now its ruined log boardinghouse and cabins slowly sink into the meadow. Boston hummed with gold mining activity after 1900. The Golden Crest, Golden Eagle and Resumption lode mines, as well as the Boston Placers, a surface mining venture, filled the mountain bowl with noise and bustle.

Marv Colsman, who spent his childhood at Boston, returned in 1979 to find his mother's brass bed disintegrating at their cabin site in the abandoned town. A short time later, in the 1980s, gold prices skyrocketed. Miners again worked veins in the stunning basin.

For fans of ghost town and mining history, bring along Mary Ellen Gilliland's local history, "Summit, A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado," the expanded 2006 edition. In the section titled "Field Guides to History" (pages 297-98), you will discover a historic tour of Mayflower Gulch with directions to its hidden mining relics.

A stop at the ghost camp serves as the destination of an easy 1.8 mile hike. Enjoy, but please help preserve the fragile town site. Continuing hikers should return to the road fork and begin curving around right to climb Gold Hill, a mineral-rich ridge, which separates Mayflower and Clinton gulches. Glory holes, the prospector's trial pits, punctuate the tundra here. The steep scramble to near 12,000 feet puts you atop an open, treeless meadow.

Head northwest across the tundra staying on the ridge top and on its north (Mayflower Gulch) side. Views, first of the Gore Range northwest then the Saguache Range west, pop into view. The stunning Clinton Gulch headwall appears. A surreal vista of the Climax Molybdenum Co.'s tailings settling ponds emerges. This unsettling sight lies at the site of an 1879-launched silver town, Kokomo, now gone, across the Ten Mile Creek valley.

Staying north on the ridge top, you will eventually pass through trees, then a meadow and finally arrive at where the ridge top ends and drops into timber, your turnaround point. A route to Clinton Gulch starts at an opening in the trees at left here, but it is very difficult to locate and follow.

Explore more information on the local hiking trails at Mayflower Gulch.

Author-historian Mary Ellen Gilliland has revised and expanded "The Summit Hiker" to include new foot trails, plus Hikes for Tykes and Fishing Lakes for Anglers. Now published in full color, the guidebook, and its companion, "The Vail Hiker," is available at local book, grocery and sporting goods stores or online at summitandvailhikes.com.

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of the Summit Daily News and regularly vetted for accuracy.