Off-Road Travel: Silverton, Colorado

Jul. 23, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez

Off-Road Travel: Silverton, Colorado

Wildlife can also be found around the trails in Silverton, so stay on the lookout for chipmunks, deer and marmots. At higher elevation and peaks, mountain goats sometimes can be spotted.

Continuing north on CR2, about 11 miles north of Silverton, the ghost town of Animas Forks will come into focus. Located in lower California Gulch, the town site of Animas Forks has a handful of rustic wooden buildings and concrete foundations where the stamp mill, which was later moved down to Sunnyside, once stood. A walking tour can be taken, making this a good place to stop for photos and a stretch.

Because of its high elevation, the San Juan Mountains have their own microclimate. It’s not unusual for it to be sunny in the morning, and then have thunderstorms in the afternoon. We’ve seen it hail and snow in mid July, so come prepared and enjoy the weather.

From Animas Forks one can head east toward Cinnamon Pass, which takes dirt travelers to Lake City and the Alpine Trail. A more technical trail can also be taken to the north, cutting over to Engineer Pass. Continuing to the west takes you up California Gulch, past the still-standing Frisco-Bagley Mill.

The Frisco-Bagley Mill was constructed in the summer of 1912 near Animas Forks at 11,400 feet. Pieces were brought in by the Silverton Northern Railroad and assembled onsite.

California Gulch is extremely lush with greenery and alpine flowers displaying more colors in the summer. There are a few pullouts near the top of California Gulch, which make for a good tailgate lunch stop.

Heading up and over California Pass reveals the gem of Lake Como. This turquoise body of water quickly becomes the focal point in Poughkeepsie Gulch—also known for its difficult terrain.

Heading over Hurricane Pass leads to Red Mountain, an area with two florescent peaks that glow thanks to iron ore. The Corkscrew Gulch trail descends down from this point toward the ghost town of Ironton. The Corkscrew Gulch trail connects with HWY 550, connecting to pavement on the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray or back to Silverton. 

From Hurricane Pass, one can head south towards CR 110, which heads back to Silverton for a return trip on dirt. This route goes past more tree-lined trails and mining relics.

There are many more Jeep trails, ghost towns and historic sites to explore around Silverton—we’ve only scratched the tip of the mountain. Most of the trails around Silverton are easy to moderate, with a few like Poughkeepsie and Black Bear are designated for expert drivers/riders only. 

If more dirt is what you seek, nearby Ouray and Telluride (on the west side of HWY 550) offer additional mining roads and dirt trails to explore.

Justin Fort enjoying yet another 4x4 trail in the San Juan Mountains behind the wheel of his trusty Toyota 4Runner--Mr. Miyagi.

To help get you ready for your very own Colorado off-road adventure, we highly recommend the latest edition of “Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails” by Charles A. Wells & Matt Peterson (Funtreks). This informative guidebook gives mile-by-mile directions, GPS waypoints and good trail information. There are 100 Colorado dirt trails included, 20 from the Silverton, Ouray, Telluride area. These included Kendall Mountain, Arrastra Gulch, Stony Pass & Kite Lake, Eureka Gulch, Animas Forks, Picayne & Placer Gulches, Poughkeepsie Gulch, California Gulch, Corkscrew Gulch & Hurricane Pass, Red Mountain Mining Area and Mineral Creek. More info at

Silverton, Colorado 
(970) 387-5530

San Juan National Forest/BLM

Stay the Trail Colorado

Red Mountain Motel & RV Park / Jeep Rentals 
(970) 387 5512 Newsletter
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