Round Trip Distance: 2.6k/1.6 miles
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 9685 - 9796 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Ironton Park
Attractions: Mostly groomed trail
The Saratoga is part of the Ironton Park Nordic Trails in the Uncompahgre National Forest south of Ouray, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Townsite Loop where it heads north down the valley to where it comes to an end above the old Saratoga smelter. The first half mile of the trail is groomed and mostly level. The last 0.3 miles of the trail travels uphill in backcountry fashion until it ends at the Saratoga smelter. Along the way the Saratoga trail provides access to the Brooklyn and Iron Fen trails.
The trailhead is located along Highway 550, 8 miles south of the town of Ouray, in an area known as Ironton Park. The park is in a large subalpine meadow where the Million Dollar Highway levels off before finishing its climb over Red Mountain Pass.
To get to where the Saratoga trail begins from the trailhead follow the Townsite trail to the left and cross the bridge over Red Mountain Creek.
After traveling along the north end of the tailing pond the Saratoga trail branches off to the left from the Townsite Loop.
Stay to the left as the trail heads into the trees.
As the trail continues it travels through a grove of pine trees whose red bark and green bows stand in stark contrast to the background of aspens and the snow covered ground. Even in this low light there was something immensely delightful about the scene.
The trail stays mostly inside the treeline as it heads down the valley. As the trail progresses it crosses the creek coming out of Gray Copper Gulch.
The groomed part of the trail is following the course of a road that is traversing along the mountain side a little above the valley floor.
At the next junction the Brooklyn trail branches off on the right.
The Saratoga trail continues in like fashion and at the next junction the Iron Fen trail departs on the left. The Iron Fen trail drops into the valley and makes a semi loop that leads it back to the Saratoga trail.
The groomed portion of the Saratoga trail comes to an end at its next junction with the Iron Fen trail. From here the Saratoga trail continues to the right in backcountry fashion.
This portion of the now ungroomed trail has an uphill slope to it.
Within a tenth of a mile or so the Saratoga trail makes a sharp left turn where it is reconnected to by the Brooklyn trail.
The last stretch of the trail appears to get very little use. The only other tracks on this day were those made by a deer.
The trail continues along the side of the mountain and makes a bumpy creek crossing just before reaching a Historic Site sign. We chose to turn around at this point as the trail was about to become much more primitive and make a descent through the trees.