Looking for a moderate snowshoe with a good destination? Then consider Peru Creek near Keystone and Montezuma. I like this snowshoe because 1) it’s mostly on a summer 4×4 road, so it’s easy to follow 2) while it does gain about 1,000 feet in elevation, it’s never too steep and 3) it ends at an interesting destination — a mine and a stamp mill on a hillside that you can see, even in deep snow years.
The snowshoe starts at the Peru Creek Road #260 turnoff, about five miles from Keystone Ski Resort. Peru Creek Road is closed to 4×4 traffic from November 23 to May 20 or until its dry. And snowmobiles are not allowed here. The parking lot at the trailhead is plowed and it’s next to a paved road, making access easy (directions below).
Start by going around the gate and looking at the map board. You’ll see Peru Creek Road crosses several turnoffs including the Lenawee Trail and the Chihuahua Road/Trail (read about Chihuahua Lake, in summer, here). If you see a faint line on the map that says Cinnamon Gulch, that’s where we’re heading.
Start on the road and within a few steps, the road bends to the right. The left fork is a private road, take the right fork.
Forest Road #260 is a wide road here, in the trees. It’s about a mile to the first open area, where you’ll cross over a creek, under some power lines and start seeing some of the nearby mountain peaks.
After taking in the views, it’s back in the trees for about a third of a mile. At the next open area, take a good look on your left at the avalanche path you’re crossing. If the avalanche danger is moderate to high, you may need to turn around here. You can get the avalanche forecast from the Colorado Avalanche Information website. If it looks safe to proceed, it’s just a few more steps to the Maid of Orleans mine.
The Maid of Orleans mine operated in the 1800s and the old tipple (wooden chute that was used to move ore) is right next to the road. Above it, you’ll spot a nice house with solar panels. According to two real estate websites, the home is a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,248-square foot house that sits on five acres. A 50 percent interest in the house and land sold in 2013 for about $259,000. See video that goes inside the house. On the right side of the road/trail are two buildings. The real estate website said one was a 2-car garage. The other was described as an outbuilding.
According to the book, Geology and ore deposits of the Montezuma Quadrangle, the Maid of Orleans mine contained galena, copper and sulphurets.
As you continue up the road, about a 1/3 of a mile away, you’ll pass the Lenawee Trail. The Lenawee Trail is a 3.6-mile trail that climbs up to treeline and has views of the Jumbo Mine, according to the Forest Service. It looks like some mountain bikers use the trail as part of a loop in the summer to access Argentine Pass and the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
The main road/trail keeps winding through the trees and meadows. Soon you’ll pass the Warden Gulch/Morgan Peak turnoff, then Chihuahua Gulch.
About 2.5 miles from the trailhead, you’ll pass under the power lines again and enjoy an open meadow with mountain views.
Then you’ll enter a forest area where the trail gets steeper and narrower. Hike up this section to a wide-open meadow. At this point, the trek is about to get harder. While the meadow isn’t very steep, you’ll likely be breaking trail at this point. Cross the meadow, continuing to head toward the back of the valley.
There’s one more section of trees, then another large meadow. Because we were with someone who had been here in the summer, he was able to point out the Pennsylvania Mine, about half way up a nearby hillside, just outside the trees. However, if you don’t know the area, it may be hard to spot the small structure from here.
Cross the meadow, still heading toward the end of the valley, and soon you’ll see the Pennsylvania Mine stamp mill on your right. The stamp mill was the building with large crushers (stamps) that helped break up the ore. Look above the stamp mill, about half-way up the mountain to see the old mining structure.
According to WesternMiningHistory.com, the Pennsylvania Mine operated off and on from 1885 to 1930. Miners extracted gold, silver, lead and lesser amounts of copper and zinc.
At this point, you can turn around or continue exploring the valley. However, the avalanche danger increases after the mine area.
Details: The snowshoe to the Pennsylvania Mill/Mine view is about 7 miles roundtrip with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Because the snowshoe starts at 10,000 feet, this trek may be harder than expected for visitors or residents who haven’t been at elevation.
If you’re looking for more Colorado snowshoeing and winter hiking trails in the Summit County area, I recommend Saints John, the Hunkidori Mine, Mayflower Gulch (near Copper Mountain) and the Sallie Barber Mine (Breckenridge). Check out this list of the best snowshoes near Denver and this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel east on Highway 6 towards Keystone. Just past Keystone, turn right onto Montezuma Road (CR 5). Follow Montezuma Road for 4.6 miles to the large pull-off on the left side of the road, this is the Peru creek Road trailhead.