Richmond Trail

Round Trip Distance: 6-7.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 9,951 - 12,678 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Richmond
Fee: none
Attractions: Incredible views

The Richmond trail is located 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, in Ironton Park where it climbs the steep slopes below Hayden Mountain to where it crosses the ridgeline at Richmond Pass. From there it descends into Richmond Basin where it comes to an end at the Richmond Basin Road. Enroute it is connected to by the Full Moon trail. Scenic views of the surrounding valleys and high mountain peaks abound from the trails elevated positions. The Red Mountains dominate the views to the east while the far off peaks of Uncompahgre Peak (14,308 ft.) and Wetterhorn Peak (14,016) can also be glimpsed. Looking west from Richmond Pass includes views of Telluride Peak, Chicago Peak and Mt. Sneffels (14,157 ft.)

The Richmond trailhead can be a little tricky to find. The sign sits off to the side of the road and is partially obscured from view by a growth of young aspen saplings. To get there drive south on Highway 550, measuring from the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, for 9 miles. Watch for an unmarked turnoff on the right near MM 84.6. The turnoff is about 8 tenths of a mile past the Larson Brothers Schoolhouse. After turning off of the highway follow the road to the left, past an old mine that is on the right, for probably less than 100 feet to the trailhead.

After hiking away from the trailhead there will be another trail sign with the distances to the Full Moon trail (1.6 mi.), Richmond Pass (2.4 mi.) and the Richmond Basin Road (3.7 mi.). After passing the trail sign the route goes to the right a little over a rocky patch before picking up a more noticeable trail. As the trail begins to climb there is a trail register where it is important to sign in for various reasons including to aid Search and Rescue if they are called to the area.

Much of the lower part of the trail climbs along a moderate slope through a lush forest populated mostly by apens. Switchbacks that are followed by some very long straight stretches are the fare as the trail nibbles away at the more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain between the trailhead and Richmond Pass.

The aspens eventually give way to thick groves of pine trees that are interspersed with open grassy areas where a cornucopia of mountain wildflowers mix their fragrances with the aroma of the forest creating a sensory delight for both eyes and nose.

Somewhere near the mile and a half point the trail veers to the right past an old indistinguishable pack trail.

As the trail climbs above 11,300 feet it breaks out onto the tundra slopes and leaves the shelter of the forest behind.

Near the 1.6 mile point (we were showing 1.9) from the trailhead there is another sign where the Full Moon trail meets the Richmond trail.

The next section of the trail gets much steeper. Fortunately it only lasts for a couple hundred yards because it is covered with scree and makes for an unpleasant slippery slope on the return hike.

The rest of the route to Richmond Pass, which crosses the ridgeline at a saddle that is to the right of center in this photo, comes into full view as the steep section of trail levels off. The pass looks like it is still a long ways off but the hiking is much easier at this point. If thunderstorms are brewing and look likely careful consideration should be taken before continuing to avoid the risk of lightning strikes.

Off to the right of the trail the south peak of Hayden Mountain (13,206 ft.) towers above Full Moon Basin where it immediately captures the camera's attention.

Not to be outdone is the view of the Red Mountains on the other side of the valley. At this elevation you can see over the top of them and get glimpses of the peaks around Silverton, Colorado.

This hike was made on July 17th and there was still enough snow on the ridge that we had to take a lower route to get around it. In June we probably would have needed crampons and an ice axe to get to the pass. There is a better looking trail that is a little higher up on the shoulder of the mountain that looked much faster and easier but on this day it was leading right into the cornice of snow that was draping over the saddle of the ridge.

From the pass the official trail continues down the west slope of Hayden Mountain and comes to an end at the Richmond Basin Road. For this post we continued more to the west instead and lounged around on some boulders at the upper end of Richmond Basin before heading back. We could have scrambled over to the road by hiking around the upper part of the basin from this point and reached it at a higher point that was less than a half mile away.

The rocky ridges on the north side of the Yankee Boy Basin Road are so rugged that they look unconquerable.

Of course, zooming in on Mt. Sneffels, it also looks forbidding but we have hiked it a couple of times in the past. Right now the infamous collier that the trail ascends is still filled with snow.

Other than the steep section of scree the hike down can be a pleasant journey. When you have views like this to enjoy a little scree slope is much more tolerable.

It doesn't take nearly as long for the hike back down the trail of course. We always kick what we call the 'boot rollers' (small rocks and branches) off the trail on the hike up as well as any larger rocks that needn't be there. It makes the trip going down a lot nicer and it has become a habit that we can't seem to break. The Richmond trail has plenty of 5 star views but for various other reasons we only gave it 4 stars. It is all merely subjective where opinions can vary depending on the current weather and each person's physical fitness. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.