Gordon Gulch  
USGS 7.5' Map: Gold Hill
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 2 FR233 2.50 8,760 to 8,920 ft. None 1-2 hours
County: Boulder
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Roosevelt National Forest, Boulder Ranger District 2140 Yarmouth, Boulder, CO 80301 (303)541-2500
Summary: Gordon Gulch is a network of 4WD roads off of the Switzerland Trail 4WD Road and Highway 72.
Attractions: Camping
Natural - Closed by heavy snows.
Best Time: June - May be open unless heavy snows
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Best
Trail Heads
Camping: There are many dispersed campsites along the Gordon Gulch network of roads.
Base Camp: Good area to base camp with access to many 4WD roads along the Switzerland Trail.
Fall Colors: Poor - Mainly pine forest.
Navigation: From Ward, CO. head north on Utica Street toward Modoc Street and go 0.4 miles. Continue onto Nelson Street and go 394 feet. Turn left onto CO-72 E and go 6.7 miles. Turn left into the Gordon Gulch dispersed camping area and follow FR226 northeast. Turn right at the fourth right hand turn to start Gordon Gulch 4WD road.

From Nederland, CO. head west on West 2nd Street toward North Jefferson Street going 0.3 miles. Continue onto Colorado-72 W/Caribou Street and continue to follow Colorado-72 West for 4.8 miles. Turn right into the Gordon Gulch dispersed camping area and follow FR226 northeast. Turn right at the fourth right hand turn to start Gordon Gulch 4WD road.
History: The Switzerland Trail railroad grade began in its middle at the town of Sunset. Sunset was the terminus for the Greeley, Salt Lake & Pacific narrow gauge railroad line that ran 13.2 miles up Four Mile Creek from Boulder. The line was completed in 1883, and Sunset, originaly known as Penn Gulch or Pennsylvania Gulch, was the end of the line. In 1894 a large flood damaged the tracks beyond repair and they were pulled up. In 1897 the Colorado & Northwestern built a second railroad over the same route, but moved the line to higher ground in places. Also in that same year the line was extended from Sunset up out of Four Mile Canyon along the north rim, around some low mountains, to the town of Ward, a distance of 12.8 miles. June 23, 1898 was the official passenger train over the tracks. On June 28th the formal opening to passenger traffic happened with officials and special guests from Denver riding the train. It was advertised as the "Formal opening of the Whiplash Route from the verdant valley of Boulder to the cloud kissed camp at Ward". The railroad crossed over Culbertson Pass, originally called Gold Hill Pass, just west of the famous Mount Alto area. The pass divides Lefthand Creek to the north and Four Mile Creek to the south and is located at the long curving cut in the hillside west of Mount Alto. In 1904 the second portion of the Switerland Trail line was completed from Sunset to Eldora, a distance of 20.1 miles. This section climbed up the south side of Four Mile Canyon to Sugarloaf Mountain and then headed west to Eldora. The line was also called the Whiplash Route due to the back and forth course of the tracks, similar to the whips used at the time by drivers of stages and wagons.

Near Sugarloaf Mountain, the town of Sugarloaf once existed. It started in the early 1860s when prospectors found gold ore and used an arrastra to crush the ore to free the gold. Once the surface ore was depleted the area was abandonded. In 1873 another boom took place when tellurium containing gold and silver was discovered. The Livingston Mine near Sugarloaf produced $300,000 worth of gold. After it closed a prospector named Miles discovered rich gold ore in 1902 in a potato patch close to the old mine. In a week Miles prospected $20,000 from the potato patch using a scraper. Of course the mine was named the Potato Patch. In 1915 the United States Gold Corporation constructed a large cyanide mill near Sugarloaf to process low-grade ore. By 1940 the mill was closed and during World War II the equipement in the mill was pulled during a scrap drive.

Because the Colorado & Northwestern could not make it on the revenue from hauling mine ore, it turned to tourists to finance the line. A 20x30 foot depot, sidings and a wye were installed at Sunset. The Columbine Hotel in Sunset put up the tourists and kept them fed in the large dining hall. In 1909, the Colorado & Northwestern Railroad was replaced by the Denver, Boulder & Western, often dubbed the "drink beer and wine" by its carefree passengers. In 1919 a flood washed out miles of track and took out some of the railroad bridges causing the line to shut down and the tracks pulled up leaving the rail road grade as a rough road. The demise of the line came from a variety of factors, including: the extremely harsh winter conditions in the Rocky Mountains, which limited the tourist trade to about four months per year, forced frequent line closures, and periodically killed train crews, plus the advent of the automobile and the closure of the surrounding mines.

Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 1, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 1998. Print.
Wolle, Muriel Sibell Stampede to Timberline, 2nd ed. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1974. Print.
Helmuth, Ed and Gloria The Passes of Colorado, 1st ed. Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Publishing, 1994. Print.
Just after leaving the Matchless, FR226, road you will pass a dispersed campsite. The road is wide and maintained as it heads east. Next, you will come to an intersection with Upham Gulch, FR228, on the right heading down a shallow gulch. Stay to the left and continue heading east. After about three quarters of a mile from the start you will come to another intersection. The road to the right is a spur road of the Upham Gulch network, FR228.1B, which loops down and becomes FR228.1A, then heads back up to connect with the Gordong Gulch road. Stay to the left to continue with the Gordon Gulch road. Within a quarter of a mile you will come to the intersections with FR228.1A coming in from the right. Past the intersection there will be some dispersed campsites on your right.

The trees will get dense as you head more north. The road will come out into an open area and will cross Gordon Gulch at its upper reaches. As you cross the gulch there is a single track trail on your right. This is shown as FR233.1B, but it may have grown in with little use. The road only goes a short distance. This is also where the road your on changes to FR233.1A. After crossing the gulch there will be more dispersed campsites along the road. The road will have turned to the west, where you will come to an intersection. The road to the left is FR233.1A. After a quarter of a mile you will come to another intersection with FR233.1A on the right and FR233.1F on the left. Both of these roads go a short distance and connect with the Switzerland Trail road.

Back at the previous intersection, the right is FR233.1C. It goes a short distance before coming to another intersection. The left is FR233.1C which will connect with the Switzerland Trail. The right is FR233.1D, which goes about a quarter of a mile into the forest to some dispersed campsites.
Data updated - January 17, 2020      4WD Road driven - July 2, 2006      Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2020