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.
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.
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.