Local Hiking Trails Summit: The magnificent amphitheater of Mayflower Gulch
Mayflower Gulch is a favorite beginner hiking trail in Summit County
August 15, 2016
Nestled in the magnificent amphitheater below the ragged crest of Fletcher Mountain (13,951 feet), the ruins of the failed Boston Mining Company gold digs remain among a meadow of wetland wildflowers. Located on the west side of the Ten Mile Range, convenient access to the Mayflower Gulch Trail makes this a busy trail for summer hiking as well as winter backcountry recreation. The hike involves a gradual ascent of 2 miles from 10,990 feet to 12,000 feet on an old mining road. Providing time for exploration and photographs, the hike can be completed within two hours.
Wildflowers are abundant in the wetlands on the north side of the road, bordering Mayflower Creek. The hiking place features globeflower, elephant tusk, cinquefoil, lousewort, alpine smelowskia, bistort, paintbrush, chiming bells, columbine, arnica, beardtongue, alpine clover, and mountain goldenrod grow thick in the fertile fields of the valley.
After hiking upwards for an hour, passing the fallen remains of a cabin and an ore loading chute, this local hiking trail breaks out of the forest and reveals the remnant structures of a mine boarding house and settler's cabin on the left side of the road. The road branches south and ascends Gold Hill if you want to continue farther. On the tundra ridge of Gold Hill there are many more signs of early mining attempts on the pocketed slopes rising to the rocky ridge at 12,400 feet.
From the top of Gold Hill, you can see the Clinton Creek watershed. The stream descends northwest from the steep wall of Wheeler Mountain (13,900 feet) and Clinton Peak (13,857) on the Continental Divide, forming Clinton Reservoir in the valley below. Beyond Clinton Reservoir lies the site of the Kokomo mining settlement, south of Jacque Peak (13,205 feet) and Tucker Mountain (12,421 feet).
Kokomo was the center of population growth in the valley of Tenmile Creek, just below Gold Hill, beginning with silver discoveries in 1878. The area population swelled to a high estimated at 10,000 miners during the following three years. In 1881, Kokomo was leveled by fire. Although cabins were rebuilt, the silver deposits quickly diminished in value and the area sustained only a few hundred people past the turn of the century. The Climax Mine purchased most of the land throughout the Upper Tenmile Valley to serve as a tailings deposit site for the open-pit operation near the top of Freemont Pass.
How to get to this local hiking trail:
If you are looking for hiking near Breckenridge then Mayflower Gulch is perfect. Drive west from Frisco for 7 miles to the Copper Mountain exit from the I-70. Head south for 6 miles, ascending on Highway 91 to the Mayflower Gulch parking pad on the east side of the highway. Tailings ponds of the Climax Mine fill the valley west of the highway. If you reach Clinton Reservoir on the left side of the highway, you have gone 2 miles too far. Map: Trails Illustrated, Breckenridge, Tennessee Pass, 109. Latitude 40°, Summit County Colorado Trails.
Author Kim Fenske has written extensively on hiking trails throughout Colorado. His writing includes "Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties" and "Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness," available from Amazon Kindle Books.
Originally published in the August 2015 issue of the Summit Daily News and regularly vetted for accuracy.
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