Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mayflower Gulch Snowshoe/Ski

Mayflower Gulch Snowshoe/Ski
~4 miles RT, ~580ft to upper cabin at Boston Mine
2 hrs leisurely pace

After staying overnight in Leadville, J and I had chance to check out the Mayflower Gulch trail between Leadville and Copper Mountain. About 6 miles south of Copper, and 17 miles from the edge of the town of Leadville (next turnoff just north of Clinton Gulch Reservoir), Mayflower Gulch has a big bang for its buck in terms of easy terrain with scenic beauty.

The hike is a steady 2 miles on a road along Mayflower Creek, heading directly southeast as it climbs to treeline. Out of the trees, you are treated to breathtaking views in a basin surrounded by Atlantic Pk, Fletcher Mtn, and Drift Peak. Old cabin and mine ruins dot the landscape below these 13ers, affording great photographic opportunities and a chance to visit Summit County history.

Unfortunately, despite numerous gorgeous pictures online on sunny days, we did not have the classic Colorado bluebird skies, but still enjoyed an otherworldly white landscape on a calm day.

We only hiked to the cabins themselves (which are surrounded by flat or low-angle terrain in the immediate vicinity), and enjoyed the views. This is a great all-season option, as wildflowers are abundant in summer and the peaks would be more accessible. The winter trail, without recent snow, was densely packed and tracked up to the lower cabins, so shoes with traction or even skate skis would have worked on a day like this, but flotation (skis or snowshoes) is advisable anywhere past there, as my poles routinely sunk as far as I would let them. Extended tours go up further in the bowls above the cabins, or on the corniced Gold Hill to the West, both of which have more avalanche risk, if not to scrambling the summits themselves. In addition, tree skiing options abound as well as some mellow touring in the gulch itself.

This is a great option for a shorter excursion on snowshoes or skis. We saw a couple guys that were learning basic cross-country skiing on the trails, and it occurred to me (making a comparative list in my head) that Mayflower Gulch just might be one of the best places to learn basic ski touring and get comfortable with the equipment, with ample snow, great views, and wide, steady trails.

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