Watch: Bootprints Hiking Guide, Mayflower Gulch
Located off Colorado State Highway 91 between Copper Mountain and Leadville, Mayflower Gulch is a classic Summit County hike for recreators looking for a relatively tame ascent with rewarding views.
To access Mayflower Gulch, park at the parking lot at the Mayflower Gulch trailhead on the highway between Copper Mountain and Fremont Pass. Cars had already begun to pile up as we reached the parking lot shortly before 9 a.m., on a summer Sunday. The hike up the Jeep road to the Mayflower Gulch open amphitheater just above tree line was busy, and we saw fellow hikers and their dogs every few minutes.
Take note that if you’re hoping to drive up the Jeep road to the historic 19th century mining camp ruins at the old Boston Mine, there is a substantial washout on the road less than a quarter-mile into the ascent that won’t be passable for anything but a high-clearance vehicle.
The road will have you gain about 250 feet over the first 0.65 miles of the hike — a tame ascent under a continuous canopy of trees. The climb will remain tame on the Jeep road, as you’ll gain about 500 feet 1.4 miles into the route. This is where you’ll reach tree line at about 11,500 feet with the natural amphitheater and the beauty of the steep, craggy slopes leading up to Fletcher Mountain and Atlantic and Pacific Peaks in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range coming into view.
The Boston Mine camp and all its ghosts are 1.6 miles and 600 feet into the hike. At the gate in front of the settlement, bear left to check out the ruins. We did so for a few minutes before turning back to take the rightward trail at the gate, a doubletrack that continued up from the rushing creek of snowmelt from winter’s snowpack.
The creek and canopy make this hike an ideal one to do with your dog, as the distance and elevation gain is not too stressing and your pup won’t have to scale long distances of sharp Rocky Mountain talus slopes.
Continuing on an old mountain road, we headed for the switchbacks that scale the shoulder to the Tenmile-Mosquito Range ridgeline. The switchbacks to the summit are the steepest part of the hike, scaling about 500 feet just over a half mile. It kicked our butts. We earned our food and beer later in the day on a trip up to Leadville.
When you come to a pebbly-rock overlook of the gulch at about 11,700 feet, you’ve reached a good place to stop with your dog and rehydrate and refuel. From here you’ll see the switchbacks climb the Alpine meadow full of wildflowers.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: 2.7 miles to shoulder ridge line overlook
Elevation gain: 1,136 feet
Starting elevation: 10,978 feet
Summit elevation: 12,055 feet
Elapsed time: 1:37:14 to shoulder ridge line
Average speed: 1.67 miles-per-hour
Average pace: 35.88 minutes-per-mile
Parking: Mayflower Gulch parking lot on Colorado State Highway 91
Ideal for: Hiking with dog, historic site, wildflower views, novice hikers and out-of-towners
The trail continues along an old mountain road and then at the 11,900-foot mark the road becomes more of a singletrack. From there it’s a little over 100 feet of climbing to the top of the shoulder. A landmark for hikers to know they’re approaching the top in 2020 is a wave-like cornice of snow several hundred feet long hanging beneath the shoulder ridge. It’s a true surf’s up feel here in the Rocky Mountains, like a glacial wave cresting into the valley below.
We reached the end of our hike, including the jaunt up and into the historic mining area, about 2.7 miles in. Because of a lingering snowpatch covering the singletrack trail we hiked around to the left to reach the top of the summit, where a cairn, or rock pile, signifies the best place to stop, have a snack or lunch, and look out on Leadville to the southwest, including views of the state’s high-point, Mount Elbert.
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