Silver Belle

Round Trip Distance: 3.2 k/2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 9832 - 10,037 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Ironton Park/Larson Bros.
Fee: none
Attractions: Backcountry trail, Historic site

Silver Belle is one of the Ironton Park Nordic Trails near Ouray, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Townsite Loop where it works it way through brush and aspen groves to a road that leads across Red Mountain Creek and up to the site of the Silver Belle mine. The trail ends at the junction of the South Pipeline and Colorado Boy 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. If the parking area is full at the trailhead then continue south for another hundred yards or so and park on the right at the Larson Brothers mine.

Follow the Townsite Loop south from the trailhead past the old mining town of Ironton. The Silver Belle trail branches off on the right just before crossing the bridge over Red Mountain Creek.

As the trail begins it travels along the side of a small stream.

At this point the route can become very confusing. Avoid any tracks that go off to the left towards the creek. The trail is in bad need of some trail markers through this area. The route that you want to follow heads at an angle away from the creek and more toward the highway.

If you manage to stay on the correct course you should come to a small wooden bridge that you will probably want to travel around rather than over.

After crossing the bridge work your way through the brush, continuing to stay more to the high side of the hillside, and you should end up on a wider trail that almost looks like an old road.

Follow the wider trail through the aspens and you will come out at the weather station. Continue south, staying to the right of the weather station, paralleling the highway.

Just below a pullout on the highway you should be able to find another blue diamond with an arrow on it that points to the right. The idea is to continue parallel the highway by heading south and sticking with the higher terrain. Try to avoid any tracks from other skiers or snowshoers that head down to the creek at this point.

There are one or two more blue diamond trail markers as you work your way through the brush but they are easy to miss. The goal is to come out of the brush and end up at the road that leads across the creek to the Silver Belle Mine. The road can be a little hard to notice when it is buried in snow like it is in this photo. If you look up the road to the right where it comes through a small grove of aspens then it is much more apparent. Rather than heading toward the aspens though you will want to follow the road to the left and finally head down towards the creek.

The road makes a lazy bend around the terrain as it drops down to the bridge that crosses the creek.

After crossing the creek the trail becomes well marked and the route is much easier to follow.

After a short distance the trail levels off below the tailing piles of the Silver Belle Mine and continues off to the right.

After gaining a little more elevation the trail comes to an end at its junction with the Colorado Boy and South Pipeline trails. From here you can either turn around or explore the other two short trails.

This is a picture of the snow covered tailing piles of the Silver Belle Mine.

Ironton Park has no shortage of stunning alpine vistas.

We have done the Silver Belle trail on both classic cross country skis and snowshoes. Due to the backcountry nature of the trail it was much easier on snowshoes. If there would have been other tracks to follow that stayed on the right trail then the skis would have done much better as would a nice pair of backcountry skis. If you decide to also do the Colorado Boy and South Pipeline trails then the total round trip distance from the trailhead will come out to around 6 miles. There is a donation box at the trailhead where you can make a contribution towards the trail grooming effort and maybe even the purchase of a few more trail markers. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your skis or snowshoes and 'Take a hike'.