Backpacker

Bear Creek Trail

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UNCOMPAHGR­E NATIONAL FOREST, COLORADO

There would be no Bear Creek Trail without gold. In the late 1800s, miners in Ouray discovered ore in the steeps surroundin­g the brittle, slate-and-quartzite canyon walls of the Bear Creek gorge. They promptly blasted a path along the side of the vertical cliff to access the seams, but it’s no cakewalk: It narrows to just 2 feet wide as it teeters 200 feet above serpentine Bear Creek.

Today, you can follow the historic mining trail—which has earned National Recreation Trail status—on a 7-mile out-and-back. Start out hot, climbing 1,000 feet in less than a mile through stands of aspen (foliage peaks the last two weeks of September) before leveling off for the catwalk: For .8 mile, balance on the shoulder-width, dynamitehe­wn shelf above Bear Creek. After crossing a rock drainage near mile 1.8, you’re back on solid ground and moving again through aspen groves on a wide trail. Look for abandoned mining equipment starting at mile 2; you’ll pass the Grizzly Bear Mine before continuing on to Yellow Jacket Mine (do not enter either one) at mile 3.5. Set up camp in the meadow for a tent-door view of 14,150-foot Mt. Sneffels.

Trailhead Bear Creek (38.0029, -107.6620) Season July to October; July and August for wildflower­s, September for foliage Permit None Contact www.fs.usda.gov/gmug

 ??  ?? The trail twists above the Bear Creek valley.
The trail twists above the Bear Creek valley.

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