Round Trip Distance: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate +
Elevation: 8192 - 9003 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Sutton Mine
Attractions: Scenic views, mine buildings
The Sutton Mine trail is located off of the Camp Bird Road on the southwest outskirts of Ouray, Colorado. The trail begins by climbing steeply to the Ouray Overlook. From there the trail begins leveling off as it works its way along the side of the mountain into the Uncompahgre River Gorge. The ultimate destination of the trail is the historic Neosho Mine where several buildings still remain. The trail offers incredible views of the gorge from the side opposite of the Million Dollar Highway where it is most commonly seen.
To get to the trailhead drive south out of Ouray on Highway 550 and turn right after the first switchback onto Ouray County Road 361 that leads to Yankee Boy Basin. Watch for the trailhead on the south side of the graveled road just beyond where the Ouray Perimeter trail crosses it.
The first part of the trail between the trailhead and the Ouray Overlook is moderately steep.
The surface of the trail has small amounts of scree in places with some rocks and tree roots. Other than that the climb up the forested mountain side is a beautiful trek.
The overlook is reached in just over 3/4 of a mile.
After climbing the steep trail to the overlook many people might decide that they have had enough. While the overlook isn't quite the highest point of elevation on the Sutton Mine trail the rest of the route involves much less climbing and what lies ahead is pretty enough to be well worth any additional effort.
In less than a quarter mile past the overlook the trail levels off somewhat as it travels along a bench above the west side of the Uncompahgre River Gorge. The views to the south are dominated by Abrams Mountain (12,801 ft.).
The trail comes to the Bear Creek Overlook as it progresses. There are better views of the falls if you continue a little further though.
And speaking of falls; when driving along the Million Dollar Highway there are waterfalls that can be seen in several places cascading hundreds of feet down the mountain. While hiking the Sutton Mine trail you will get to cross a couple of them and see them close up. The amount of water will vary according to the snow melt higher up.
Before the trial reaches the Neosho Mine it passes under the tram cables that ran from the Sutton Mine down to the Sutton Mill on the east side of the gorge. The Sutton Mine actually sits quite a bit further up the mountain.
Various buildings around the Neosho Mine come into view a short distance past the cables. The roofs of the buildings have been covered with tin to help protect them. Other work has been done as well to shore up the structures. This is a common practice all around the Ouray area where the effort to preserve the rich mining history for future generations is an ongoing project.
A little past the main group of buildings stands the bunkhouse. Be sure to go inside to see the photos from the early 1900's. The trail continues past the bunkhouse and as we are told makes a very difficult climb up to the Sutton Mine. For this post this is where we turned around.
There are plenty of places to stop along the trail for a picnic or to take in the views. Perhaps even on a rocky knoll under a crooked little tree.