Silver Plume Mountain via 730 Mine Trail

Directions to 730 Mine Trailhead: From I-70, take exit 226 to Silver Plume. Since most people will be coming from Denver on west bound I-70, I’ll give the directions from that point of view (it’s easy enough to apply them to the east bound exit). At the end of the exit ramp take a right towards main street. Note that the paved road you see immediately off the exit is NOT Main Street! Go down a block on this road to the intersection with Main Street, a dirt road. Take a right onto Main (this feels a little counter-intuitive) and drive a few hundred feet into town. In the center of this very tiny town is a turn to the left to Silver Street. At the end of this steep, short road is the trailhead for the 730 Mine Trail.

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There’s only parking for two vehicles at the “sluice lot” where the 730 Mine Trail starts. It’s just as easy to park in town and walk a few hundred feet to the trailhead.

There is only parking for two vehicles at the trailhead, which is only about 300 feet up from Main Street, and you may need 4×4 just to get up the steep hill! A sign at the trailhead politely suggests parking on Main Street and walking up — a good idea! It’s only about a 2 minute walk up the road to the start of the trail.

The Hike: While I’ll let the pictures tell the story, here’s a rundown of the right (and wrong) way to get Silver Plume Mountain (12,477 ft.) from Silver Plume. Note that getting to Silver Plume Mountain via Republican Mountain in the town of Empire (another hike I’ve written up) is an excellent option. The 730 Mine Trail is a very well-maintained and easy to follow class 1 trail. For 1.7 miles, it climbs up and switches back past many impressive mine ruins (watch out for nails!) If you get a little confused at the larger mine ruins, look for the brown forest signs with arrows pointing the correct way (though you will likely not need them). You’ll then have a half-mile semi-bush-whack to treeline and top out on Silver Plume Mountain around 4.1 miles (and 3,300 ft of vertical elevation gain). Return the way you came (not as easy as it sounds!) for 8.2 miles of fun!

At mile 1.7 (the 730 Mine) the trail will end at Browns Gulch. Just before the trail’s end is a large, gated mine and slightly off trail (marked by a cairn) is the Griffin monument — a grave of the brother of the 730 mine owner. This is also the end of the on-trail hike.

Griffin Monument Silver PLume

The Griffin Monument overlooking I-70 and Silver Plume.

On the way up, we opted to stay on the east side of the gulch. I assume this creek is usually a trickle, but it was spring (mid-June) and it was rushing hard — enough to make me worried about making the crossing with my dogs. So we made a scrappy but safe bushwhack up the steep, east side of the gully. The dogs had no trouble on this side, but it was tough for the humans! About .75 miles we breached treeline and had a nice tundra walk to the summit.

On the descent we opted to cross the gulch rather than fight the scrubby forest and lo and behold, the west side was MUCH better (and had the ghost of an old, long abandoned trail). There is definitely the remnants of a human-made trail. The topo map I provided shows the best way to get to the top, while the Google Earth screen shot shows the actual route we took. The best crossing spot was just past a pair of huge, distinct boilers in the gulch — just be careful if you have pups and the creek is running hard.

Make a bigger day by snagging nearby Bard Peak, Sherman Mountain or Republican Mountain — all within reach across the rolling, wide-open alpine tundra near Silver Plume Mountain.

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The pups lead the way on the 730 Mine Trail. As you can see, it’s very well maintained and easy to follow.

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It doesn’t take long for great views to appear.

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There’s lots of mine ruins along the way. This one is less than a half-mile from the start of the 730 Mine Trail.

colorado dogs rule

It’s like a canine Mount Rushmore! What could they all be looking at?

Most of the mine ruins are safely closed up with large grates.

Most of the mine ruins are safely closed up with large grates.

corny boiler song

Boilers in the stream, that is what they are / They’re not making steam, but don’t you go far / This is where you cross / To the other side / You can rely on their presence, uh-huh / To show where to cross Brown’s Gulch, uh-huh

If you go the wrong way and stay on the east side of the gulch, get ready for a steep, scrappy bushwhack.

If you go the wrong way and stay on the east side of the gulch, get ready for a steep, scrappy bushwhack.

silver plume treeline

Breaking treeline reveals fantastic tundra! Browns Gulch comes up between Silver Plume Mountain and Republican Mountain.

Nearing the summit, which is a spiky, crown of rock at the top of a modest hill.

Nearing the summit, which is a spiky, crown of rock at the top of a modest hill.

silver plume mountain summit

The summit of Silver Plume Mountain! That summit boulder is tougher to scale than it looks!

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My uh, graceful scramble to the top. Rock climbers, look away!

silver plume mountain true summit

On the summit on a wicked windy day!

Mystic on the summit plateau.

Mystic on the summit plateau.

Lucy and Fremont with Bard Peak in the background.

Lucy and Fremont with Bard Peak in the background.

Paul on the summit!

Paul on the summit!

Our official "team" summit picture. It's tough to get all 3 pups in the shot!

Our official “team” summit picture. It’s tough to get all 3 pups in the shot!

The old, collapsed mine on the summit.

The old, collapsed mine on the summit.

The official summit marker on Silver Plume Mountain's highest point.

The official summit marker on Silver Plume Mountain’s highest point.

browns gulch silver plume mountain

Time to return to the gulch. You can start off on the east side, but switch over to the west to eventually to find the path of least resistance in the form of an abandoned trail.

Paul found this pair of old, not-that-beat-up pair of telemark skis in an old cabin on the way. We left 'em there.

Paul found this pair of old, not-that-beat-up pair of telemark skis in an old cabin on the way. We left ’em there.

A cool drink for Mystic.

A cool drink for Mystic.

Here is a good look at the old, abandoned trail. It's there if you look hard enough but it is tricky to follow.

Here is a good look at the old, abandoned trail. It’s there if you look hard enough but it is tricky to follow.

Looking down Browns Gulch towards I-70 just before crossing back over to the 730 Mine Trail.

Looking down Browns Gulch towards I-70 just before crossing back over to the 730 Mine Trail.

Nearing the end of the day.

Nearing the end of the day.

Fremont takes a break on our last switchback above Silver Plume.

Fremont takes a break on our last switchback above Silver Plume.

silver plume mountain google earth shot

Here’s a google earth view of our GPS tracks. As you can see, we went the “bad” way on the way up by staying on the east side of the gulch. The west side was MUCH easier to follow.

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Here’s the “official” map with the best route outlined. Click for a bigger version!

About James Dziezynski

James is a best-selling author and writer based out of Boulder, Colorado. His writings reflect his personal passions: adventure, science, exploration, philosophy, animal welfare and technology. When not spending time in the mountains, James volunteers at several animal rescue organizations and is a collector of classic video games.