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Arrastra Gulch to Silver Lake trail A hike through history. Many people choose a hiking trail for its scenic beauty, convenience of being close to town or maybe because it offers more solitude. Choices vary on the individual but if you like to hike in areas with incredible beauty and provide a chance to see a bit of Colorado history, this trail might suit you well. Arrastra Gulch sits northeast of Silverton, Colorado.  It is one of the main canyons that provides access to Silver Lake and many of the mines that dot the landscape along the way. The old mines and ghost towns are one of the biggest draws to the area and what make it such an interesting hike.  It is not very far distance wise from the trailhead next to the Mayflower mine to the top at Silver Lake, (about 1.24 miles) but give yourself at least four hours to make it up and back. The trail has several steep switchbacks that cut across loose scree and there is a short scramble along a rock ledge that might give inexperienced hikers or people afraid of heights a bit of trouble. This section has (at the time of this article) cable and ropes attached to the rocks for assistance but use extreme caution here. For this reason the trail gets a rating of moderate to strenuous.  The rewards for the climb are well worth the effort as after you pass the scramble the trail levels out and cuts across a huge basin between massive mountain peaks.  About ½ mile further and you will reach your destination, Silver Lake and the Silver Lake mine.  The lake with all the old buildings around it will pop up and take you by surprise and the amazement of how people managed to get all the material up there will leave you pondering. It is absolutely astonishing that such a large mining complex could be that far up in the mountains and how tough it must have been. The ghost town is littered with mining artifacts known as "leavitrite". Do you know what "leavitrite" is? LEAVE IT RIGHT THERE!  It is tempting to take some of the items sitting out but this entire spot is one big museum and is part of our heritage. Let it remain so for others to enjoy and keep it special. Keep it unique. Your camera is the best way to share what you saw with others. When to hike? Summer is the only time this area is safe to hike and depending on how much snow has fallen during the winter will determine how far you can get. Generally, a trip to the top can be attained by July and the prime times are August through the beginning of October. There can be huge avalanche debris fields that cross the path that do not completely melt (sometimes for years) that might need to be crossed and extra caution used. The Silverton Visitors Center  can provide information for planning your trip and our maps page will show the general route.  When you decide to make your trip be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, rain jacket and maybe an extra layer of warm clothes. The Silver Lake Mine is not the only claim that was being worked in the area and you can still see the remains of the other two major operations as well.  As you are facing southwest you see the largest of three, Silver Lake mine with the most wooden structures still standing. Just past on the right is the remains of a brick building that is part of the Iowa Mine and the third is slightly to the southeast which is the Royal Tiger Mine.  People began prospecting this area in the early 1870's but most of the major operations began in about 1926 and declined in the early 1950s. The minerals being mined were mainly silver, gold, lead, zinc and copper. The tram towers that you can see from the dirt road and that parallel the hiking trail are part of the Mayflower Mine built in 1929. The tram was one of the main ways for ore, supplies and miners to get up and down the mountain to the Shenandoah-Dives Mill (Mayflower Mill) and you can still see the buckets hanging from the cables to this day! There are also large "V" shaped structures that sit in various spots along the steep hillsides. These were designed to protect the tram towers from avalanches and rock slides that frequently occur in this area. Our map page has options for directions to the trailhead but the roads can be a bit confusing. Going north through Silverton take the highway out of town to the right (CR 2) and follow until you see the large Mayflower Mill on the left side and the tram cables going up the mountain to the right. Look for a road on the right that drops down to a bridge that crosses the Animas River. This is the dirt road heading up Arrastra Gulch. Follow this up and go past the road to the right leading to the Aspen Mine. At the first fork keep to the left (CR 52) and at the next intersection stay to the right and continue to follow the tram towers up the canyon until the road ends. There is parking about ¼ mile below the Mayflower mine that is suitable for OHV's. This hike is a great spot for history buffs and rock hounds and it gives visitors a chance to see things that a lot of trails do not offer. Great scenery, incredible photo opportunities and a unique look into the past lives of the people working and living there. So lace up the boots, grab your rock pick and Go Outdoors! Refferences U.S.G.S. and the U.S.G.S. Photographic Library http://libraryphoto.cr.usgs.gov/cgi- bin/search.cgi?search_mode=exact&selection=Silver+Lake+Mine|Silver+Lake+Mine Denver Public Library Digital Collections http://cdm15330.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/searchterm/silver%20lakes%20mine/order/nosort Historic American Engineering Records National Parks Service U.S. Department of the Interior HAER-No. Co-91  
Iowa Mill  Lower Arrastra Gulch 1900-1910 from Denver Public Libary Digital Collections Iowa Mill  Lower Arrastra Gulch 1900-1910 from Denver Public Libary Digital Collections Silver Lake Mine 1886-1900 from Denver Public Libary Digital Collections Silver Lake Mine 1886-1900 from Denver Public Libary Digital Collections Mayflower Mill tram 1934-1941 from Denver Public Libary Digital Collection Mayflower Mill tram 1934-1941 from Denver Public Libary Digital Collection Iowa Mine at Silver Lake 1886-1900 from Denver Public Library Digital Collections Iowa Mine at Silver Lake 1886-1900 from Denver Public Library Digital Collections Taken in the Mayflower Mine between1910-1930.    Photograph from:  Denver Public Library  Digital Collection.