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Hike into History



 Bridal Veil Falls  

Katie Klingsporn's Daily Planet Article provided the information for this blog.

Telluride’s spectacular backyard provides hikers with some serious eye candy-gushing waterfalls, wildflowers in every color of the rainbow, turquoise blue alpine lakes and breathtaking views. Many of Telluride’s hikes also provide a look back into Telluride’s rich mining history. Mining relics are scattered all over the mountains, in high basins or tucked into the woods.

These structures from days gone by are a link to Telluride’s past and offer a  glimpse into what life was like for the hardy men and women who called these mountains home over 100 years ago.  They lived above 12,000 feet, endured harsh winters and traveled over some really rugged terrain. There was no such thing as a quick trip to town to pick up the forgotten eggs and milk. 

It is difficult to go for a hike in the area and not encounter some piece of the past but here is a quick look at several hikes with the most prominent historical relics


The mill, a huge grey building located at the east end of the box canyon, is one of the region’s largest mining relics. The multistory building once processed millions of tons of zinc, lead, copper and silver laced ore from the mountains. The Idarado Legacy Trail, an easy dirt path that features interpretive signs filled with historic facts, takes hikers on an educations stroll to the mill.  


The Bridal Veil Power Station is an iconic Telluride landmark that is perched above the tallest free flowing waterfall in Colorado. This historic hydroelectric plant was built in 1907 to supply power to the Smuggler Union mine and mill. The lore, according to long time operator Eric Jacobson, is that the notorious Smuggler-Union Mine manager Bulkeley Wells convinced the board of the mine to  construct  the hydroelectric plant atop the falls so he could build a Swiss-chalet style summer home there. Wells lived there until the 1920’s and the plant continued to run until 1954 when Idarado Mining Company abandoned it for public utility.  From the parking lot past Pandora Mill, hikers can follow the rocky 4-wheel drive road up several switchbacks to the top of the falls and power plant.


A towering five-story structure that sits in a beautiful alpine meadow at 12,450 feet is one of the most scenic pieces of history in the area. It is a little bit of work to get to but well worth it.  Built in 1910, Lewis Mill was a high elevation ore mill. The mill was just one structure in a mining complex that also included a mine portal, tram house, bunkhouse and office, and was at one time powered by electricity from the Bridal Veil Power Station. To get to the Lewis Mill, start at the road closure gate located near Bridal Veil Power Station and proceed past the power station on the rocky double track trail. The trail climbs into Upper Bear Creek Basin.  At about mile 3.5, the trail forks again with the left hand path leading to Lewis Mill (7 miles from the power station)  


Tomboy was once a bustling high-altitude town home to 2,000 people, a large mill, a livery and stables, shops, a boarding house, a movie theatre and even a bowling alley. The town went bust in the 1920’s when the ore ran out. Today you will find foundation of buildings, old cable lines and piles of wood where building once stood. Tomboy road takes you to the town of Tomboy. Start from the top of North Oak Street and take the dirt road 5 miles up.  Hikers pass waterfalls, go through a rock tunnel and enjoy a spectacular view of the valley.

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