Hike of the week: North Ten Mile
Time: 5-6 hours
Distance: 3.5 miles to Gore Range Trail; 5 miles to end
Elevation gain: 1,700 feet to end of valley
High point: 10,800 feet
Usually open: June-Sept.
A moderate route that takes you into the primitive Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, the North Ten Mile Trail penetrates a glacier-carved canyon to its head. Steep walls flow with rivers of aspen gold in late September. Easy to reach from Frisco, the North Ten Mile offers backcountry enjoyment for hiking enthusiasts.
Drive I-70 to Frisco exit 201. Turn west into a generous parking area at the overpass west end. From Frisco, proceed west on Main Street beneath I-70 to the parking area.
The trail, beginning north of the Frisco town water buildings, climbs sharply at first but levels off to an easy rise. At 0.2 miles notice the ditch leading to a massive early-1900s flume which diverted North Ten Mile Creek water to the impressive placer mining operations of the Buffalo Placers Mining Company in Ryan Gulch, today’s Wildernest. (You can see this flume on the side of Chief Mountain from the eastbound 201 on-ramp of I-70.) At 0.75 miles, a waterfall splashes amid mining relics. Look in this area for early-day metal-banded wooden pipe in the creekbed and old timbered water gates in the stream.
At 0.9 miles are large beaver ponds. Early 1800s beaver men came here for the thick high-altitude pelts. Just beyond, on the right, note tailings from the early 1900s Square Deal Mine. This mine, burrowing into Chief Mountain with three tunnels, earned the title “Crooked Deal Mine” from competitors.
The road undulates through aspen-pine forest to the Wilderness boundary gate at 2.0 miles. The snowy and winding trail here takes you through dark damp forests latticed with tiny streams into sun-splashed meadows.
Old wagon roads in the area indicate the canyon’s mining history. A corral remains near roadside. The canyon’s J. D. Hynderliter Ranch belonged to a feisty widower who sat on the Frisco School Board for years–to the dismay of several young schoolmarms who taught in the one-room school house. Old-timers also tell tales of a North Ten Mile Canyon bear who delighted in appearing on the doorsteps of Frisco residents, possibly to get a good scratch against the door frame. When the bear bumped the home’s doorbell, the answerer got a surprise.
A sign at 3.5 miles marks the Gore Range Trail junction (also called Wheeler-Dillon). This is a good turn-around spot. Continuing hikers will want to avoid a bog by taking the dry upper path. A dramatic cirque lies ahead, with sweeping walls and wild ridges, and the trail runs out there at 5 miles.
Enjoy your hike!
Mary Ellen Gilliland is the author of “The New Summit Hiker,” a guide for 50 historic hiking trails near Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Dillon and in the Ptarmigan Peak and Gore Range/Eagles Nest Wilderness areas. The book is available in Summit County and Vail bookstores, supermarkets and sporting goods stores, at http://www.alpenrosepresscom or by calling Alpenrose Press at 970 468 6273.
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