Round Trip Distance: 4.9 miles
Elevation: 9,366 - 11,653 feet
Cellphone: 2-5 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.
Attractions: Incredible views
The Hayden trail is located in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Ouray, Colorado. The original trail began near the Camp Bird Road where the trail climbed the northwest side of the mountain to a scenic overlook on the ridge at an elevation of 11,650 feet. Later the trail was extended down the east side of the mountain to Crystal Reservoir in Ironton Park. This post covers the original trail beginning from a 4x4 road off of the Camp Bird Road.
To get to the trailhead from Ouray follow Highway 550 south. Just past the first switchback turn right onto the County Road 361, the Camp Bird Road. Follow the road as it heads toward Yankee Boy Basin for 1.7 miles and turn left where you will see the sign in this photo. This is the lower trailhead.
From the lower trailhead the route climbs a very steep jeep road for 1 mile. If you can drive the road to the upper trailhead you will find only enough room to park 3 or 4 vehicles without blocking the road. If you have to start at the lower trailhead then add 2 miles to the total round trip distance.
As the trial continues from the upper trailhead it shortly passes a registration box where you can let Search and Rescue know that you are in the area. From there the trail begins climbing on a path that is cut through fallen aspen and pine trees. One gets the impression that the trail requires a lot of annual maintenance to keep it open.
The trail becomes very scenic as it works its way into Squaw Gulch where it keeps up its relentless climb.
Rather than head straight up the gulch the trail climbs a series of scree covered switchbacks. There are a few spurious trails that braid the main route making it difficult at times to stay on the main trail.
Eventually the trail straightens out somewhat and the climb becomes a little less arduous.
Point 12,579 of Hayden Mountain dominates the ridgeline above the trail. Hayden Mountain is a massive bulk that has a north summit that is at 13,123 feet and a main summit that is 13,206 feet. Both of those summits are blocked from view by the point at 12,579 feet.
Just before reaching the ridge the trail finds another grove of pine trees to travel through. One or two primitive campsites can be seen along the way that any backpackers or hunters might choose to make use of.
A sign greets hikers once they make it to the ridge. The sign points out that you can continue down the east side of the mountain and reach Ironton Park after 3.4 miles. Be warned that there are places along the way where the scree covered trail is barely a shoes width wide and the slope of the mountain may be too steep to stop if you lose your footing.
The Hayden trail rewards hikers with world class scenery in all directions. To enjoy even more one could hike up the ridge from the saddle and gain the higher ground above 13,000 feet. There isn't a marked trail to follow but once you make it through the trees near the saddle one isn't needed.
The crux of the hike is the loose scree on the very steep slopes where many people are going to opt to get down and scoot on their fannies in places. The scree is our biggest reason for giving a trail with 5 star views a 3 star overall rating.