old engine at Fredonia mine

Happy Hiking: Fredonia Gulch Trail

  • Fredonia Gulch Trail
  • Distance:  4.5 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,341 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

I have recently been on a kick to hike to lakes as I find the beauty of the lakes peaceful and the challenge rewarding.  Today, however, I changed up the scenery.  After a few days of longer hikes, I wanted something short.  With it being the weekend, I also looked for a trail less traveled.  While staying at our family cabin near Bailey, Colorado, I searched for nearby options on All Trails. 

Fredonia Gulch Trail fit the bill.  The 4.5 mile trail is located off Highway 9 on the way to Breckenridge, and is only about one hour from Bailey.  The description overview on All Trails suggests the trail features nice wildflowers, and that is about it.

Indian paintbrush
Kind of looks like a flower menorah

While I love wildflowers, as a spoiled hiker there needs to be more to attract me.  Fortunately, fellow hikers commented about views and a mine at the top.  I was definitely sold.  Mines fascinate me.  Despite all the movies, I just can’t imagine the Wild West. 

The Wild West

The thought of miners searching for gold in commanding terrain simply amazes me.  Just hiking up the trail with a backpack is hard to me.  Imagine bushwhacking to a potential vein, building a road, managing horse and mule teams, excavating the mine, building a rail line, transporting ore in carts, and then protecting the find.

That seems like a lot of perilous work, for not a whole lot of money.  In any case, there are several mines near Breckenridge, and in my opinion, they are all cool!  The Fredonia mine was no exception.

Parking

As I mentioned, the trailhead to Fredonia Mine is located off Highway 9.  The parking area is tiny with space for about three cars.  There is a nearby business and another street, however, so overflow parking may be accommodated. 

The Road to Fredonia Mine

The trail is not a trail, it is a 4-wheel drive road.  The road ascends through the forest immediately, gaining 1,341 feet in 2.25 miles, which is a decent incline, especially for flatlanders.  As I mentioned in my previous post about Hunt Lake, I’m not the fondest of hiking up roads.  As a result, I faced immediate disappointment at the start, especially after seeing a few single-track trails venture into the forest.

I stuck to my plan, however, and followed the road where I reached a gate closed to motor vehicles without a permit.  After passing through the gate, I climbed a few switchbacks up the mountain that soon rewarded me with magnificent views and wonderful wildflowers.  The Blue Columbine, the Colorado State flower and a favorite of mine, was particularly prevalent.  What a treat!

blue columbine

Just up the road from the boulder field was the first set of mine remnants.  Fair warning the crumpled building, oven, and tilted outhouse hidden down the hillside is nothing compared to what is to come.  While I enjoyed snapping some photos, most hikers walk right by, or at least the two that caught up to me did.

The Fredonia Mine

Continuing up the road ultimately leads to a split to the left and straight.  Taking the road straight brings explorers to the top which features a perilous structure, mining equipment, and pleasing path of Indian paintbrush.

13 second video of Fredonia Mine and View

The lower road to the left leads to the Fredonia mine shaft and equipment.  This area below may also be reached by descending a narrow path on the mountain slope.  Down by the shaft, there are mine pilings filled with crystallized rocks and geodes. 

Not to mention, both areas offer magnificent views snow-capped 14ers across the way.  I was in heaven!  Rocks, wildflowers, views and a mine…what more could I ask for?!? I really enjoyed exploring Fredonia Mine.

Below this section of the mine was another collapsed building next to an electric pole.  Not easily accessible, most people likely skip exploring this area too.  At least the only other two people that I saw on the trail did.  I, on the other hand, decided to take a peek.

The area was easier to reach by descending back down the road and then climbing up the slope from the sign posted on a nearby tree.  While the smashed wood and few rusted pieces of metal weren’t all that interesting, I did manage to snap a photo of a pika.  Additionally, the mountainside was peppered with shards of porcelain from antique high-voltage insulators.  I thought it was kind of neat.

The Silver Output

Anyway, as I explored, I wondered if the miners’ work paid off, so I looked up its history.  The Fredonia mine aggregate output was estimated to exceed $25,000 by 1941.  The ore also contained but was not mined for lead and zinc.  Today, $25,000 is worth $450,000, so perhaps it was worth it, though I wonder how many miners laid claim to the production.

Anyone who is fascinated by the history of mining or who enjoys photographing old equipment, would really like the Fredonia Gulch Trail.  Furthermore, the path is only lightly traveled.  I saw only six people on a Saturday.  The somewhat dull hike up the road is worth the reward at the top!  ETB

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Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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