Road trip: Mayflower Gulch, a hidden backcountry gem, worth the pilgrimage
Mayflower Gulch & Boston Mine remains
Time: approx 2-3 hours
Activities: snowshoeing, cross-country and backcountry skiing
Distance: 1.8 miles one way tree line cirque and mine remains
Elevation gain: 765 feet
Mine site elevation: 11,645 feet
Getting there: Take I-70 to Exit 195, Copper Mountain. Follow Highway 91 past Copper Mountain Resort toward Freemont Pass and Leadville. At roughly 6 miles up the pass look for a parking lot and trailhead on the left. Shortly before the parking area, drivers can catch a quick glimpse up the Mayflower Gulch Valley.
Nearby Clinton Gulch — roughly a mile further on Highway 91 — also makes a good snowshoe option.
It’s the little tucked away corners of Colorado’s high country that help add to the allure of the state. The spots that may not actually be that far off the beaten path at the right time can feel like they’re miles from anywhere. They’re the places most resort visitors will never know or consider venturing to.
While you might think these destinations are reserved for backcountry experts in the winter time, that is not always the case.
On the way to Leadville — just beyond the chairlifts of Copper Mountain Resort and across the Tenmile Range from Breckenridge — lies one of those spots.
It may not look like it from the Highway 91 — blink and you might drive right by the trailhead parking lot — but Mayflower Gulch is easily one of Summit County’s most accessible treasures.
A relatively short, gentle uphill hike from the highway will reward its visitor with an above tree line vista fit for a postcard.
In the early 1900s, the men and women of the of the Boston Mine camp called the high-alpine cirque in the shadow of 13,995-foot Mount Fletcher home. Today only a few tumble-down cabins remain, but it is enough to imagine what life above tree line must have been like.
A known destination to backcountry skiers looking to get in a quick lap on one of the bowl’s surrounding ridgelines, it’s also a great spot to snowshoe or cross-country ski.
On the weekends you may find a half a dozen cars in the parking lot, but hit it on a weekday morning and you’ll likely be one of the only — if not the only — ones there.
From the trailhead, it’s a steady, forested, 1.8-mile trip up a summer jeep road to reach the above tree line bowl. After passing a few mining building remains, the path leaves the woods and opens up to reveal the core of the old mining camp and an impressive view of Fletcher, Northeast, Crystal and Pacific peaks which encircle the camp.
While snowshoes or skis are recommended, a few days after a storm the main track is usually packed out enough that hiking boots suffice.
Reaching the base of the bowl is safe for anyone fit enough to hike above 11,000 feet, but any prospective visitor should remember that it is still backcountry. The ridges that encircle the gulch are frequented by skiers and may have packed out paths, but take caution traveling any higher than the mining camp. The slopes around it are prone to avalanche.
This spot is also a great summer destination when the snow melts. The peaks hold snow late into the year, but the mining camp area turns into a high alpine meadow revealing even more remains and Mayflower Creek.
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