Hayden - #210

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Workers on West Hayden

Work on West Hayden

Bridge Across Red Mountain Creek

Karen Risch and Lyra

TRAILHEAD (Camp Bird Road):
Take Hwy 550 south out of Ouray and just after the first switchback, turn Right at the Box Cañon sign onto the Camp Bird Road (County 361). Keep left and take the higher bridge over the Uncompahgre Gorge. At about 1.7 miles from Hwy 550, a very rough jeep road turns off to the left. Follow this road on foot or by jeep, past a fork to the left at 0.4 mile, on to a left fork at one mile. The left fork becomes the trail.
Parking space up the jeep road is limited to about four vehicles; the road straight ahead to the Cutler Mine must not be blocked. There is parking along the Camp Bird Road and more space 0.3 mile farther across the bridge.

This trail takes you up into a remote area. Round trip to the ridge is 4.4 miles with an altitude gain of 2,287 feet. As you gain altitude, views open up looking back across Cañon Creek to Whitehouse Mountain and Potosi Peak. After a half-mile, the trail ascends Squaw Gulch steeply for a half-mile of switchbacks, which require care in choice of route. After finally crossing the gulch, the trail is much easier for the second mile of forest and meadow. A rewarding rest stop is reached at 1.2 miles, where an open ridge provides an overlook to Ouray and beyond. As you gain the saddle at over 12,000 feet, impressive vistas open up before you.

The hike can be continued on southward for 1.2 mles, where the trail begins descending to Ironton Park. The snowshed is seen far below and the needle mountains are in the distance. Round trip to Ironton is 11.2 miles with an additional altitude gain of 363 feet before the descent.

TRAILHEAD (Ironton):
Take Hwy 550 south 9.0 miles to Ironton Park, the flat area above the switchbacks, where you get your first glimpse of the Red Mountains. Parking: Park at the first open area on the left side of the highway, before the rock building is reached. The trailhead is by the gate at the Crystal Lake dam.

The trail makes several switchbacks up to the first ledge above the Ironton valley. From there, it continues north to a creek bed. The trail switchbacks up the left side of the creek until it reaches the high ridge and ties in with the trail from the Camp Bird side. There are beautiful views in all directions.

The trail is steep. Careful route-finding is needed through waist-high plants in several areas. Going south from the saddle (from Camp Bird side) or north from the high ridge (from Ironton side) leads to open slopes with exposure to the weather and some treacherous footing.

Near the Top of East Hayden

Hayden from West

Lower Snowfield

Upper Snowfield

Hwy 550 from Ridge



Horsethief Trail (New) - #215 | Horsethief Trail (Old)

Trailhead in the American Flats - Late June

American Flats (south) Rock Cairn

Difficulty Creek Headwaters

Horsethief/Difficulty Creek Fork

Workers, Mike and Sandi MacLeod

Work Crew with Wildhorse in the Background

Looking North from the Bridge of Heaven
Courthouse Left, Redcliff and Coxcomb Right

The New Horsethief Trail

This trail begins 3.5 miles up the Dexter Creek Road from US Hwy 550; one mile beyond the Dexter Creek Trailhead. With two-wheel drive, Park near the Dexter Creek Trailhead on the north side of the creek by the mine dumps. With four-wheel drive, cross the creek and take the left-hand road uphill to a junction in a small clearing. Keep going straight ahead uphill from the junction for about 0.8 mile. You will see an open area on your left with piles of rock from the Wedge Mine. Park here--but please respect this private land on both sides of the road. Hike up the road about 100 yards to the trailhead going off to your right.

Round trip to the Bridge of Heaven is 8.4 miles with an altitude gain of 3,100 feet. The trail climbs slowly along a beautiful forested mountainside to the alpine area behind the Amphitheater. At 0.4 mile and again at 0.7 mile, side trails lead to views of the east face of Whitehouse Mountain. At 1.9 miles, the trail reaches an open area with dramatic views.

In 4.2 miles, the trail reaches the Bridge of Heaven, where the spectacular panorama of mountains makes the climb worthwhile. Here, for a short distance, the trail follows a ridge with a steep dropoff on each side. The elevation of the Bridge is 12,300 feet. Plan for an early start so you can reach this destination before the afternoon showers move in. The trail continues to a junction with Bear Creek Trail to make a 20 mile trip--which may require two days. There is an additional 400 foot altitude gain before the drop to the American Flats. From the junction with the Bear Creek trail, it is about 2.3 more miles on to Engineer Pass.

This trail reaches 12,700 feet, and altitude sickness can be a problem. Past the Bridge of Heaven in Difficulty Creek and American Flats areas, many animal trails can lead to trouble staying on the right trail; however, rock cairns have been placed at strategic locations. Cutting across the tundra to shorten the connection to Bear Creek is not recommended. The high and open sections of this trail provide a risk of hypothermia and blinding hail or snowstorms. Get off the ridges if thunderstorms approach.

Keep in mind that crossing Dexter Creek on your return can be risky if a heavy downpour upstream causes a rapid rise in the creek level. So be aware of weather changes.

Last Switchback Prior to the Bridge of Heaven - From American Flats

Workers placing a sign at the Bridge of Heaven

Looking South from the Bridge of Heaven
Cow Peak (Top of Amphitheater) left, Red Mountain Far Right


Meadow in the Upper Horsethief

Summer Flowers on the Horsethief

The Old Horsethief Trail

The trailhead begins about two tenths of a mile north of the Ouray Visitor's Center on the east side of Highway 550, across from the Timber Ridge Lodge and near Sky Rocket Creek: Some parking is available at the trailhead. Otherwise, park at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and walk to the trailhead.

This trail was re-opened during the summer of 2004. The trail had washed out in the "blowout" area over the years, and it took a great deal of repair to get it in shape for hiking again. The Ouray Trail Group, in cooperation with the USFS, planned and executed the work in an effort to get the last remaining "old" trail out of Ouray opened to public access.

From the trailhead, the trail climbs to a crossing of Skyrocket Creek, switchbacks up talus slopes, crosses the "blowout" and Bridalveil Creek,and then passes near the Wanakah, Johnathan, Schofield and American Nettie mines on "Gold Hill" while climbing to an intersection with the new Horsethief trail a bit below the Bridge of Heaven. It is 2.8 miles from the trailhead to the intersection. There are tremendous views back down into Ouray and down the valley from this great trail, which has a history dating back to the earliest days of Ouray.

Ouray from near the "Blowout" on the Old Horsethief Trail
Mt. Abram to the left; Mt. Hayden, right


Matterhorn - #135

Matterhorn (right) with
Wetterhorn in the background
The Matterhorn Trail begins off the Ridge Stock Driveway on a ridge southeast of Matterhorn Peak. A map, such as the Hiking Trails of Ouray County should be used to assist in accessing this trail.

The trail leaves the Ridge Stock Driveway to the north and follows a valley on the east side of Matterhorn, then rises over a ridge and drops down into the the East Fork of the Cimarron gorge and connects, on its north end, with the Upper East Fork trail. There are beautiful views of Matterhorn and Wetterhorn peaks along the way.



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