Round Trip Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation: 7633 - 9313 feet
Cellphone: 1-4 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Attractions: Forest hike, scenic views
The Silvershield trail is located in the Uncompahgre National Forest on the west side of the town of Ouray, Colorado. The trail begins in the valley floor where it climbs steeply at first to a bench area that runs along the cliffs above the north end of Ouray. Once on the bench the trail continues to gain elevation at moderate pace until it comes to an end at its junction with the Twin Peaks trail. From there, besides turning around and returning back down the trail, hikers have the options of continuing another 1.2 mile up Twin Peaks or hiking 0.9 miles over to the Oak Creek trail. At that point they can hike down to the Oak Creek trailhead and return through the valley to where they began or hike up to the Oak Creek Overlook and down the backside of Twin Peaks where they can reconnect to the Silvershield trail at the 1.1 mile point from its trailhead. The Silvershield/Oak Creek loop will come out to a total distance of 8.3 miles beginning and ending at the Silvershield trailhead.
To get to the trailhead from the middle of Ouray take 7th Street west to Oak Street and turn right. Follow Oak Street for a little over 1 mile to Silver Shield Trail. The trailhead will be straight ahead with parking along the street leading up to it. Housing construction in the area is causing the area around the trailhead to continually change.
Just before the registration box there are some trail signs that show the many options available from this trailhead. One option that isn't mentioned is the Corbett Canyon Trail which branches off of the north side of the Oak Creek trail and leads to the Corbett and Dallas Creek trails.
The trail starts out a little steep as it angles its way up the mountain. There are places where it levels off a bit so all in all it isn't too bad of a climb.
At the 0.3 mile point the trail reaches the Tamara Calhoon Memorial where there is a nice bench and a kiosk that points out information about Gold Hill which rises dramatically from the valley floor on the opposite side of the Uncompahgre River.
The ruins of numerous abandoned gold mines can be seen up and down its steep slopes where tailing piles, mine shacks and flumes are all that are left from the previous enterprises.
The trail continues its upward climb after passing the overlook.
At the 1.1 mile point from the trailhead the Oak Creek trail branches off on the right.
As the trail turns southward it travels up a depression that is set back from the edge of the cliff.
Eventually the trail leaves the depression and get close enough to the edge of the cliff for some dramatic views. The side of the mountain slopes a little before reaching the edge but from there it is a shear drop off so if you have children along you will want to keep them in hand at this point.
Continuing along the trail passes a cabin that probably belonged to the Rock of Ages Mine which is a little further up the trail.
These photos were taken in the latter part of September that day after a cold front had passed through dumping several inches of snow on the ground. Most of it at this elevation was melted before the day was over. As the snow was melting off of the trees a drop of water landed right in the middle of the camera lens where it went unnoticed for about a dozen pictures or so.
On the day that we were taking pictures for this trail they were having the Ouray Mountain Trail Run. With 80 participants they had a very nice turnout.
Before reaching the end the trail comes to an overlook where the views were impressive enough to even cause some of the runners to pause long enough to take a picture or two.
Just past the overlook the trail is connected to by the route leading up from the Old Twin Peaks trailhead. Shortly after that the Silvershield trail meets the Twin Peaks trail and comes to an end.
There isn't a lot of scree on the trail so the hike back down the mountain is fairly pleasant. In this photo you can see the area around the trailhead. At present there are new houses being built all along the side street that is named Hinkson Terrace. It is hard to say what it might look like in another year or two.