TRAILHEAD (Camp Bird Road):
Take Hwy 550 south out of Ouray and just after the first switchback, turn Right at the Box Cañon sign onto the Camp Bird Road (County 361). Keep left and take the higher bridge over the Uncompahgre Gorge. At about 1.7 miles from Hwy 550, a very rough jeep road turns off to the left. Follow this road on foot or by jeep, past a fork to the left at 0.4 mile, on to a left fork at one mile. The left fork becomes the trail.
Parking: Parking space up the jeep road is limited to about four vehicles; the road straight ahead to the Cutler Mine must not be blocked. There is parking along the Camp Bird Road and more space 0.3 mile farther across the bridge.
ATTRACTIONS AND FEATURES:
This trail takes you up into a remote area. Round trip to the ridge is 4.4 miles with an altitude gain of 2,287 feet. As you gain altitude, views open up looking back across Cañon Creek to Whitehouse Mountain and Potosi Peak. After a half-mile, the trail ascends Squaw Gulch steeply for a half-mile of switchbacks, which require care in choice of route. After finally crossing the gulch, the trail is much easier for the second mile of forest and meadow. A rewarding rest stop is reached at 1.2 miles, where an open ridge provides an overlook to Ouray and beyond. As you gain the saddle at over 12,000 feet, impressive vistas open up before you.
The hike can be continued on southward for 1.2 mles, where the trail begins descending to Ironton Park. The snowshed is seen far below and the needle mountains are in the distance. Round trip to Ironton is 11.2 miles with an additional altitude gain of 363 feet before the descent.
Take Hwy 550 south 9.0 miles to Ironton Park, the flat area above the switchbacks, where you get your first glimpse of the Red Mountains. Parking: Park at the first open area on the left side of the highway, before the rock building is reached. The trailhead is by the gate at the Crystal Lake dam.
ATTRACTIONS AND FEATURES:
The trail makes several switchbacks up to the first ledge above the Ironton valley. From there, it continues north to a creek bed. The trail switchbacks up the left side of the creek until it reaches the high ridge and ties in with the trail from the Camp Bird side. There are beautiful views in all directions.
The trail is steep. Careful route-finding is needed through waist-high plants in several areas. Going south from the saddle (from Camp Bird side) or north from the high ridge (from Ironton side) leads to open slopes with exposure to the weather and some treacherous footing.
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