Bear Creek Trail
Point Of Interest
This exciting climb first goes up a series of switchbacks hewn out of the cliff face, then along ledges high above Bear Creek. As you get higher, more peaks are revealed and also the valley northward, with the profile of Grand Mesa 70 miles away. A round trip, to either the Horsethief Trail or to Engineer Pass via the South Fork, is 14.1 miles with an altitude gain of 4,230 and 4,400 feet respectively. The first switchbacks cross slides of slate and quartzite. Along the canyon trail watch for ripple marks from an ancient ocean preserved in rock on the canyon's opposite wall. Volcanic intrusions, called dikes, may be seen in many places along the trail. Switchbacks on the first part of the trail rise steadily for a gain of 1,000 feet, then the trail levels out for some stretches as it turns eastward along the Bear Creek gorge. The Grizzly Bear mine is reached after 2.4 miles. The Yellow Jacket mine is reached after a total of 4.2 miles. If you are going on toward the Horsethief Trail, you have a choice of routes here, (shown on the Hiking Trails of Ouray County map). The most traveled route goes straight ahead and crosses the creek (look left for nice cascades). The old route starts with switchbacks by the mine machinery; care is needed in route-finding, but two creek crossings are avoided.