Idaho Springs, Colorado

ATV Leavenworth Creek Road (Guanella Pass)

16.6 Miles Total - 3655 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Amy Kesic

This adventure offers fabulous scenery, including 14ers Grays Peak and Torreys Peak. Explore an old mine site and enjoy wildflowers in the summer and leaf-peeping in the fall. 

September is famous in Colorado for clear, deep blue skies,sublimely perfect temperatures, and gold-digging – of the leaf variety, thatis. On September 9, wildflower season was recently past and the best of theleaves were yet to come, but it was the perfect, clear and sunny day to checkout the high elevations on Guanella Pass from the saddle of an ATV.

Leavenworth Creek Road, like most 4x4 roads in Colorado, isan old mining road. Located just off the second overlook station on theGuanella Pass ascent from Georgetown, there is space enough to unload yourATV/dirt bike/mountain bike, but you’ll have to drive your trailer either up ordown Guanella Pass to an open parking area, and walk back. This road is alsopopular with high-clearance off-roading vehicles like Jeeps and 4Runners.

The first half-mile of the road starts out pretty sketchy,with deep ruts, large, loose stones, and hairpin turns. After gaining someelevation quickly, though, the road smooths out quite a bit for the next 5+miles to the mine site. It’s relatively straight with few pitfalls. It willstill be fairly rough for an SUV, but it’s easy riding on an ATV.

From the beginning of the road to the mine is about 6.2miles and 2100’ elevation gain. The mine is located right at tree line and witha large, flat “parking” area, which is a good place to take a break and explore theold ruins.

To get to Argentine Pass, which is in the saddle betweenArgentine Peak and Mount Edwards, continue on the road veering to the left. Itis another 2.1 miles and 1555’ elevation gain to the “summit,” or end, of theroad. Elevation at the end point is about 13,207'. This section is much narrower and more stony than the previous 5 miles,but still navigable in an off-road vehicle. Other than a couple of places atthe turns, there is nowhere for vehicles to pass one another.

Where the road ends, it intersects a hiking trail that leadsfrom Horseshoe Gulch to the summit of Grays Peak, which at 14,278’ is thetallest peak in the Front Range. You can also see Torreys Peak (14,275’)connected by a saddle to the right of Grays, and right in front of you is RubyMountain, a pretty 13er. Peeking between Ruby Mountain and Grays Peak is GrizzlyPeak, topping out at 13,428’.

It seems that miners of old had a real knack for findingsome of the most beautiful areas deep in the mountains of Colorado. Despite itsbeing too early for leaf-peeping in early September, we were rewarded with anincredibly colorful tundra—and a handful of golden leaves. The green, bronzeand gold of the willow underbrush, the red ground cover, and the streaky,reddish mountains wove a rich tapestry of color and texture that rivals anyother season.

(Note: The photos included are completely unedited, which demonstrates just how vivid the colors are.)

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Tags

Chillin
Photography
Mountain Biking
Skiing
Snowshoeing
Backpacking
Hiking
Food Nearby
Forest
Handicap Accessible
Scenic
Wildflowers

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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