Albany Gulch Loop

Round Trip Distance: 3.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 9,653 - 10,768 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Saint Germaine Foundation
Fee: none
Attractions: Abandoned mines, views

The Albany Gulch Loop is in the Ironton Park area of the Uncompahgre National Forest south of Ouray, Colorado. The trail begins off of Highway 550, the Million Dollar Highway, at the Saint Germain Foundation across from Crystal Lake. From there the route follows an old mine road as it climbs through a forest of pine and spruce trees to just over the 1 mile point. A singletrack trail begins from there and continues to climb the mountainside where it passes some old mine buildings after a short distance. At the 1.85 mile point the Hendrick Gulch trail branches off on the left. A few feet past that junction the Albany Gulch Loop reaches it highest point where an overlook provides partial views of Hayden Mountain. The trail continues down a ridge where it eventually finds another mine road that takes it down to Albany Gulch and back around the base of the mountain to where the loop began.

The trailhead is on the east side of the highway across from Crystal Lake near the old stone building of the Saint Germain Foundation. To get to there begin measuring at the Ouray Hot Springs and drive 6 miles south on Highway 550. After passing through the scenic Uncompahgre Gorge the highway levels off and enters Ironton Park where there is plenty of parking near the old garage. From the trailhead the route follows an old road that heads south along the base of the mountain.

Within a quarter mile the loop begins by following the road to the left as it angles up the side of the mountain.

The road climbs moderately making use of multiple switchbacks.

Just past the 1 mile point the trail begins following a singletrack that branches off of the road. At present there is a gray diamond trail marker at the turnoff.

A short distance after the singletrack begins it passes through the midst of some old mine buildings.

After passing the mine buildings the trail continues its steep climb until it comes to a junction with the Hendrick Gulch trail. The Hendrick Gulch trail is a nice excursion that only adds about 1 mile to the hike. It tops out just over 11,022 feet which is less than 250 feet more of elevation gain.

There is a small rocky knoll just to the right of the intersection that serves as an overlook. Across Ironton Park to the west are the Full Moon and Half Moon basins. South Hayden Mountain, above Full Moon Basin, is the highpoint of the Hayden Mountain ridgeline, even though in this picture it doesn't look like it. Richmond Pass can be seen in the saddle of the ridge to the left.

From the overlook the trail descends a hogback ridge that has a very thick growth of aspen trees that for the most part block out the views of the surrounding mountains.

Just over a quarter mile from the Hendrick Gulch junction and the overlook the trail runs into the faint remains of another old road. Follow the road to the left and then almost immediately branch off of it on the right. Take care not to go too far to the right where a pretty good looking trail drops over the side of the hill. The route to follow stays up on the hillside and rejoins the road a little further along.

After rejoining the road the trail passes by the remains of an old cabin that is on the left hand side of the road where it is obscured a little by the lush vegetation of the forest. A little further on down the road is another site that has several ladders leaning up against the trees and the foundation of another cabin.

The road continues down the mountain where eventually it crosses a small stream in Albany Gulch. Immediately after passing the tailings pile of the Albany Mine follow the road to the right that recrosses the stream and continues descending the mountain. This is also where the trail begins looping back toward the trailhead.

When the trail finally reaches the valley floor it bumps up against Red Mountain Creek where the view back up Ironton Park is pleasingly beautiful.

The rest of the trail travels along the base of the mountain where it is a mixed bag easy double track and flat marshy bottoms. The earlier in the year the swampier it will be. Most of the trail is dry but the spots that are wet will have you searching for alternate routes. We hiked along the creek to get around some of it.

The Albany Gulch Loop is moderately difficult by Ouray standards where near vertical mountain sides tower thousands of feet above the valley floors. Those that aren't accustomed to hiking around the 'Switzerland of America' might find the trail more on the strenuous end of the scale.

There is an interesting story about the history that includes the rustic stone garage. Up until recently the land was in private hands belonging at one time to the religious group the Saint Germain Foundation. The Red Mountain Project and the Trust for Public Land acquired the 800 plus acre tract of land and donated it to the National Forest Service and it is now part of the Uncompahgre National Forest. The Durango Herald has an interesting article that is a fun read. As far as the Albany Gulch Loop goes, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.