Hike of the Week: Mayflower to Clinton Gulch
August 23, 2005
This week’s trail selected from The New Summit Hiker is a hike into Summit County history. Mayflower to Clinton Gulch Loop lies below Fremont Pass and echoes with gold and silver frenzy. The Boston mine camp, many mine ruins and a gold-veined ridge that dazzled early prospectors (and dazzles present-day hikers with views) awaits. Since the trail climbs above timberline, hikers should complete the high-altitude portion early to avoid exposure to electrical storms. The shorter version of the hike is moderate; the longer version of the hike requires some route finding.Two glacier-carved amphitheaters await hikers on the Mayflower to Clinton Gulch loop. Boston, an early log mine camp with ruined cabins evocative of another era, makes a nice side trip for the longer hike and a fun destination for an easy, short hike. To get there, 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.The 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. After one mile, the trail begins a gentle descent into the Mayflower amphitheater, a magnificent curve of wild schist-rock ridge with 13,995-foot Mt. 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 hard rock mines, as well as the Boston Placers, a surface mining venture, filled the mountain bowl with noise and bustle.Dillon second-homeowner 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 to $800 per ounce. Miners again worked veins in the stunning basin. A stop at the ghost camp serves as the destination of an easy, 1.8-mile hike. Enjoy, but please help preserve the fragile townsite. Continuing hikers should return to the road fork and begin curving around right to climb Gold Hill, a mineral-rich mount which separates Mayflower and Clinton Gulches. Glory holes, the prospector’s trial pits, punctuate the tundra here. The steep scramble to 12,000 feet puts you atop an open, treeless meadow. Now follow this carefully: 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 Company’s tailings settling ponds emerges, an unsettling sight at the site of an 1879-launched silver town, Kokomo, now gone, across the Ten Mile River valley.Staying north on the ridgetop, you will eventually pass through trees, then a meadow and finally arrive at where the ridgetop ends and drops into timber. Right here, look for an opening in the trees northwest (left). Enter it; after about 20 feet, it becomes a road. Note a mining glory hole ahead and turn right on this old ore road. It leads down past a mine cabin to Clinton Gulch. Before you reach Clinton Lake, note the dry water ditch off-road at right. This 1.3-mile stretch is the last leg of the loop beginning and ending at the Mayflower Gulch trailhead. Follow the ditch until it swings downhill left. There, forge ahead straight and quickly pick up an abandoned mine road. Though young trees grow on the old roadway, pass through them to a drop into the Mayflower trailhead parking lot.As always, enjoy your hike!Mary Ellen Gilliland wrote The New Summit Hiker, a guide for 50 historic hiking trails near Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Dillon and in the Ptarmigan Peak and Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Areas. The guidebook is available for $16.95 in Summit County and Vail bookstores, supermarkets and sporting goods shops or by calling Alpenrose Press at 970-468-6273. Ask for an author autograph! Box: Mayflower to Clinton Gulch LoopClinton Gulch LoopTo Boston Ghost CampTime: 3 hours2 hoursDistance: 5.5 miles1.8 milesElevation gain: 1,280 feet765 feetHigh point: 12,000 feet11,645 feetRating: More difficultEasyUsually open: Late June-Sept.Topo: Trails Illustrated Breckenridge Tennessee Pass
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