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Mountains of Minerals: Rocky Gulch & Maggie Gulch

San Juan Triangle | Friday – Sunday, July 14-16, 2023

To escape the rising temperatures in the lower valleys this weekend, I decided to head up into the San Juan Mountains near Silverton so I could spend some time exploring and hiking in Rocky Gulch and Maggie Gulch which are both situated along the Continental Divide. I left from work on Friday afternoon and made my way south over Red Mountain Pass to Silverton and then headed up Cunningham Gulch and Rocky Gulch where I followed the steep Jeep road all the way up to over 13,000 feet. From the overlook at the end of the road I stopped to eat dinner and enjoyed the expansive alpine views.

An evening drive in the mountains near the head of Rocky Gulch.

An Evening Drive in the Mountains

From the end of the road I had a good view into Maggie Gulch.

Maggie Gulch Overlook

The views of Canby Mountain were a constant companion this weekend.

Canby Mountain Evening

Before heading down to look for a campsite, I walked along the ridge and enjoyed the scenery of the Continental Divide.

Continental Divide Evening

Soon I was back down in upper Rocky Gulch.

Upper Rocky Gulch

On the way back I stopped to wander around the ruins of the old Buffalo Boy Mine.

Buffalo Boy

Buffalo Boy Tramway

Buffalo Boy Tramway

Here are a couple interior shots of the Buffalo Boy.

Buffalo Boy Interior

Buffalo Boy Pulleys

Buffalo Boy Interior II

Buffalo Boy Mine

Buffalo Boy Mine

Looking down Rocky Gulch from the campsite I found this evening.

Rocky Gulch

The bugs were out this evening. They can bee seen as the backlit spots in this photo…

Ridge Light

A rocky cascade in Rocky Gulch.

Rocky Cascade

An evening shot of my Jeep at camp with Rein Gulch in the background.

Rein Gulch

Here’s a look at the trail I planned to hike first thing in the morning which was visible from camp.

Boarding House Trail

I woke up with the sunrise on Saturday morning and started hiking the Boarding House Trail which winds its way around Sterling Gulch to an overlook of the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House which is perched high above the valley floor on the western flank of Galena Mountain.

Looking back from the beginning of the trail toward the Weminuche Wilderness I had a nice view of Sugarloaf and Mount Rhoda.

Sugarloaf & Mount Rhoda

The view down into Sterling Gulch from the trail.

Sterling Gulch

A little further along the trail I was able to see the rugged peaks surrounding Ice Lake Basin.

Ice Lakes Basin View

The trail passed right next to these two smaller mine shafts.

Two Mine Shafts

Following the narrow trail high above the gulch.

Trail on the Ledge

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until I reached this steep chute filled with snow across the trail. I wasn’t comfortable trying to cross it, so I cut my hike short here and turned around.

Snow Across the Trail

Headed back down the trail on the narrow ledge. If you don’t like heights on a narrow trail, this probably isn’t the hike for you.

Back Across the Ledge

After returning to my Jeep at the trailhead I started driving back down into Cunningham Gulch, but made a short detour along the way to check out the Gary Owen Mine.

Gary Owen Mine

Since I had cut my first hike of the day short, I decided to head over to the Chattanooga Loop and hike up along Mill Creek to the Silver Cloud Mine.

Silver Cloud Mine Road

There were nice views of the upper Mill Creek Basin from the old mining track.

Upper Basin View

Mill Creek Basin

I was also unable to complete the hike to the Silver Cloud Mine because there was another large snowdrift across the old road just about 50 feet before reaching the mine. There’s still a lot of snow left from the big winter we had in the mountains this year. I hiked back down to my Jeep and then returned to Silverton for lunch. Then I headed up into Maggie Gulch where I planned to spend the rest of the weekend.

This is an old mining shack found along the road to the Empire Mine.

Miner's Shack

I thought this big wooden wheel was pretty interesting.

Big Wooden Wheel

After relaxing for a couple of hours I was ready to go on an afternoon hike since the monsoon season has still not arrived and there were zero chances of afternoon thunderstorms today. I made a loop around the head of Maggie Gulch by following part of the Hardrock 100 Route (which was happening this weekend, but had already passed through this area) and then connecting up with the Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail.

When I reached the Continental Divide I had a great view over these small tarns and the West Fork of Pole Creek to Greenhalgh Mountain. The Rio Grande Pyramid is even poking up above the ridge in the background.

Continental Divide Tarns

Looking back over Maggie Gulch to Galena Mountain.

Galena Mountain

Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

Sheep Mountain

Sheep Mountain

Before completing the loop I hiked up to a high point of the trail that overlooked Minnie Gulch.

Minnie Gulch Overlook

I also hiked along the ridge that separates Minnie and Maggie Gulches for a little ways.

Minnie-Maggie Ridge

There were plenty of nice views over the West Fork of Pole Creek as I made my way back towards Maggie Gulch.

West Fork of Pole Creek

Rio Grande Pyramid

Another small tarn along the Continental Divide Trail.

CDT Tarn

Shortly before dropping back down into Maggie Gulch I had a good look at the headwaters of the Rio Grande. This is where it all starts.

Headwaters of the Rio Grande

After spending the night camped in Maggie Gulch I woke up with the sunrise on Sunday morning to go on one more short hike up to Crystal Lake before heading home.

I parked by this old Cat to begin the hike.

Chalmers Cat

Maggie Gulch Cascade

Maggie Gulch Cascade

As I hiked up to the bench above me the sun lit up the ridges.

Out of the Shadows

It was a beautiful morning as I hiked across the alpine tundra in Maggie Gulch.

Maggie Gulch Morning

It wasn’t long until Crystal Lake came into view below me.

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Outlet

Crystal Lake Outlet

I enjoyed the views as I walked along the shore this morning.

Along the Shore

Crystal Lake Reflection

Crystal Lake Reflection

I left Crystal Lake and then headed back to my Jeep via a different route.

Leaving Crystal Lake

Here’s one final view of Canby Mountain on my way back.

Canby Morning

Dome Mountain dominated the view ahead of me as I drove back down Maggie Gulch and then headed back home.

Dome Mountain

>> Rocky Gulch & Maggie Gulch Photo Gallery

One Comment

  1. Debra
    Debra July 20, 2023

    Wow!! Absolutely beautiful. Love the photos. Thanks for sharing.

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