Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely true. But on a 1-5 scale, this trail is rated a 4. On a good day, I’m rated a 1…maybe a 2. So, right from the start, we were NOT going to get along. The trail starts climbing right from the start, much of it on goat trails along sheer cliff faces where you cannot see the bottom. To quote Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Hell, the fall alone would kill you”. When you are 68 years of age, and haven’t done any serious hiking in years, AND the trail takes you to 10,000 feet, one can’t escape the occasional thought of “I might die up here”. 🙂
The trailhead is only about 10 minutes south of Ouray, Colorado by car. This is Box Canyon Blog terrritory. Mark of Box Canyon said “don’t be intimidated by the steep climb and switchbacks right at the start”. There were 12-15 switchbacks, depending on who’s counting. Some longer between “switches” than others. But all of them determined to have you gain elevation quickly. Pretty soon, Highway 550 down below was but a thin curvy pencil line.
In spite of the “killer” trail, OMG, the beauty. At first, you are looking west across the highway toward Yankee Boy Basin and Mt. Sneffels. Then, as the trail twists and turns, your view changes to the north, with Ouray below, Ridgway in the distance and well beyond, Grand Mesa. Then suddenly, you are looking south at Red Mountain #1. It is at about this point that the trail takes you directly into the canyon that is Bear Creek. Sheer walls on either side, Bear Creek far below complete with small waterfalls falling into pools, one after another. They say come back in the Spring when the water volume is 100 times greater than now, making for a roaring, raging spectacle all the way down the canyon as one magnificent waterfall.
The canyon shows much evidence of mining in the area some 100 years ago. Inklings of old mine shafts and tailings fans, some of the horizontal shafts from deep inside the opposing hillsides exiting to clear air on solid cliff walls across the canyon from the trail. You are left wondering how miners even got over there.
It was of constant amazement to us how the trail kept climbing. It was relentless. And then, not only upward but just a thin footpath etched into solid stone. A thousand feet of rock wall above, and a thousand feet of the same rock wall below.
Then there was the shale. Imagine entire slopes of ceramic tile-like shale, broken and forming huge swaths of trailbed. It was though you were walking on layers of broken mirror. Slippery is a vast understatement.Our destination was Grizzley Bear Mine. The map and signs indicated that it was 2.4 miles one-way. Apparently, 2.4 miles on flat ground at sea level is NOT the same as 2.4 miles straight up to 10,000 feet.
But regardless, gasping for whatever air there was at that altitude, we finally made it. And this is what we found. This was our reward. SERIOUSLY?….