Round Trip Distance: 3.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 7657 - 7765 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Silver Pick or pullout
Fee: none
Attractions: scenic ungroomed trail

The Vanadium Nordic trail is the ungroomed section of the River trail near Telluride, Colorado that stretches for a couple of miles between a pullout on Highway 145 and the Silver Pick Road. The trail follows the old railroad grade along the San Miguel River. Right before reaching the Silver Pick Road the trail passes the site of on old vanadium mill for which we are calling this section of the River trail to differentiate it from the groomed portion of the trail.

This post is beginning at a pullout along Highway 145 that is just south of Sawpit or 5 miles south of Placerville. The same location is about 10.5 miles from Telluride. Be sure to park well off of the pavement as the paved portion of the pullout is actually for slow moving vehicles to allow others to pass. The snowplows usually clear off enough room to park but if can't get safely off to the side then use the Silver Pick trailhead 2 more miles up the road instead.

The first part of the trail stays in the shade well into the morning.

There had been a dusting of snow but it was evident that several skiers and snowshoers had been across the trail recently.

It's all peaceful and quite here today other than vehicles passing by on the highway and the background sounds of the San Miguel River.

The kiosk near the old mill site tells a different story though. According to it there was once a general store, blacksmith shop, saloon, schoolhouse, and sawmill among other things here and at the peak of operations over 400 men were employed at the mill which produced 30% of the world's vanadium. Industries come and go with little to remember them by as the years roll on and just like some coal mines today so was the mining industry in this part of Colorado not that long ago.

Shortly past the old mill this portion of the River trail comes to an end as it crosses the Silver Pick Road where the groomed section of the River trail begins. The groomed trail has two sets of classic tracks but isn't wide enough for a skate lane.

In this photo you can see how the pullout is typically plowed with plenty of space to get off of the highway and how it differs from the slow moving vehicle lane. The Vanadium section of the River trail is a good choice for those that don't mind going without the grooming. It's pleasant to travel beside the river and with very little elevation change it's a good place to make your own tracks. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.