Bill Moore Lake  
USGS 7.5' Map: Empire
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Moderate - 7 FR 183 5.0 9,265 to 11,525 ft. Rock - 2, Mud - 1 4-5 hours
County: Clear Creek
Adopted by: Mile Hi Jeep Club, Patrol 12 P.O. Box 8293
Denver, CO 80202
Managed by: Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest,
Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road, P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
Summary: Bill Moore Lake 4WD road is moderate with some alternate sections that offer more challenge. It climbs out of Empire, CO to the north past the remains of the Conqueror Mine then through the forest and finally into open meadows with views of the Continental Divide. The 4WD road ends at Bill Moore Lake, a small alpine lake.
Attractions: Rocky chutes. Mud. Scenery.
Natural - closed by heavy snows.
Best Time: June - Upper section will be snowed in
July - May still encounter snow drifts
August - Best
September - Best
October - May have early snows
Trail Heads
Camping: There are quite a few dispersed campsites along the Bill Moore Lake 4WD road.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to base camp. Other 4WD roads in the area include Red Elephant Hill, the Empire Loop, Democrate Mountain, Spring Creek, and Saxon Mountain.
Fall Colors: Good - The lower sections along the south facing gulches have more aspen trees. There are also aspen groves to the east on Red Elephant Hill.
Navigation: From I-70 westbound, take Exit 232, US Hwy 40 to Empire. Turn right on Main St. (North Empire Road) and follow the road to a parking area, approximately 1 mile.
History: North Empire was up Lion Creek about a mile above Empire at the fork where Lion Creek and North Empire Creek meet. In the fall of 1860 Henry DeWitt Clinton Cowles and Edgar Freeman discovered wire gold deposits on Eureka Mountain and Independence Mountain. Henry also discovered the first true fissure silver lode in Colorado naming it the Ida Silver. Silver Mountain was named for this discovery, but interestingly the mountain produced mostly gold with only a small amount of silver. North Empire became a tight camp crammed in the gulch along with the surrounding mines and mills.

Many mines were developed through the 1860s and 1870s. The Gold Fissure Mine was a large operation made up of five claims. Above the town was the Atlantic Mine and up the valley was the Conqueror Mine owned by Colonel John Dumont. The Conqueror mine and tunnel were developed in the 1870s. In 1910 W.S. Pryor expanded the Conqueror boarding house which sat near the mine and mill. In 1960 it still remained with its long porch and two story design. Since then it has burned down. The Benton Mine also put up a company owned boarding house for its miners.

In 1878 hydraulic mining arrived in North Empire. Timothy G. Negus, Frank M. Taylor and Robert S. Morrison organized the Empire Ditch and Placer Company to mine the soth slope of Silver Mountain. With capital of $400,000 they began washing the 40 acres owned by the company. The Negus Placer Mine produced $50,000 in 1878-1879. A few years later Judge R. E. Rombauer and Amos Morse worked the Pauline and Coupon mines with hydraulics.

In the 1890s with the mines producing large amounts of ore the Great Empire Cable Railroad Company announced plans to construct a cable railroad up the gulch from Empire to North Empire. The tracks of the Colorado Southern Railroad were extended to Empire, but the cable railroad never came to be. During the early 1900s when mining was bust, the Gold Dirt was producing enough to stay alive. In 1934 many properties merged to become the Minnesota Mines Company which created another flurry of activity until World War II when the government closed down gold mining with Order L-208.
From the parking area at the large tailing pond the road will climb up North Empire Creek for about 1.5 miles through four switchbacks passing the old mine tailings, and some building remains of the Conqueror Mine complex.
Conqueror Mine

photo by:
Adam M

After the fourth switchback the first intersection will be with a bypass up and to the left that is narrow and full of large rocks. If you stay to the right the road will continue through another switchback and reconnect with the rocky chute bypass. (The track log follows the rocky chute route.)
Rocky Section on first bypass

photo by:
Adam M

Just past this reconnection point will be another intersection. Continue to the left on FR 171.1. The right, FR 171.2A will loop back and dead end after about a mile.
Looking back toward Georgetown

photo by:
Adam M

In less than a quarter mile you will come to another intersection. Take the left onto FR 183.1, the Bill Moore Lake 4WD road. After approximately three quarters of a mile you will come to another intersection. Turn left, uphill to stay on FR 183.1. The right will connect back into FR 171.1. At the top of the hill will be another intersection. Both roads reconnect within a half mile. The left road is FR 183.1 and has a steep exposed section to climb, the right road is FR183.1A which loops through some small meadows. As you continue on FR 183.1 you will have great views of the mountains to the south.

At the next intersection the main road continues to the left while the right, FR 183.1C continues for a mile before ending in the trees. The next intersection is about one mile further. The main road is to the right while the left is FR 183.1D, which climbs toward the boundary of the James Peak Wilderness. Within a quarter mile FR 183.1D will reconnect with FR 183.1. Just over a mile past the reconnection point FR 183.1 will end at a turn around at the James Peak Wilderness boundary with Bill Moore Lake just over the hill.
Data updated: April 22, 2018       4WD Road driven: July 12, 2011       Copyright - 2000-2018