Leavenworth Creek  
Maps:    
USGS 7.5' Map: Grays Peak, Georgetown
Statistics:
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 1 FR248 10.47 9,647 to 11,594 ft. NA 2-3 hours
County: Clear Creek
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest,
Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road
P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
303-567-3000
Summary: The Leavenworth Creek road mainly follows the Argentine Southern Railroad right of way. It takes you to the site of the ghost town of Waldorf.
Attractions: Ghost Town, Mining, Railroad
Seasonal
Closure:
Nature - Closed by heavy snows. (No access when Guanella Pass is closed)
Best Time: June - May still be snowed in
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Possible early snows
Trail Heads
Accessed:
Pavilion Point Trail - Hiking
Camping: There is a dispersed camp site near Waldorf.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to base camp to explore the 4WD roads around Waldorf and Argentine Pass.
Fall Colors: Good - There are large aspen groves along the south sides of Leavenworth Mountain and Pendleton Mountain.
Navigation: From Georgetown head east on 15th Street 233 feet. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto Argentine Street and go 0.5 miles. Continue onto Brownell Street and go 0.1 miles. Turn left onto 6th Street and go 479 feet. Turn right at the 2nd cross street onto Rose Street and go 0.2 miles. Turn left onto Guanella Pass Road and go 2.5 miles. Turn right onto a gravel road to continue on Leavenworth Creek Road which will climb a few switchbacks before heading west toward Waldorf.
History: Mining was happening as early as the 1960s in the Leavenworth Creek valley. This was to be known as the East Argentine Mining District. In 1864, Edward John Wilcox discovered a large deposit of silver sulfide and began developing a mine under the name of Waldorf Milling and Mining Company. A large boarding house was built, as well as a small store, stable and machine shop. Waldorf, at 11,666 feet, began to take shape. In 1868 the Big Stevens mine was discovered on the other side of McClellan Mountain. In 1905 Wilcox needed cheaper transportation for his mine, so he started construction of the Argentine Central Railroad, beginning at Silver Plume. The railroad was a risk being at such a high altitude. By 1906 the railroad was completed to Waldorf where a depot and water tank were constructed, and a tiny post office was started, being the highest in the United States. This was a beautiful and thrilling railroad ride, with some of the curves at 145 degrees and grades of 10 percent.The tracks were then extended to the Vider Tunnel, which was being developed for mining and as a transportation route under Argentine Pass. If it had been completed, Waldorf would have been connected to the mines in the Peru Creek area.

Link to an image of the Waldorf Mine and town, 1910.
Link to an image of Waldorf looking northeast, 1910.
Link to an image of the Waldorf and Vider Mines, 1910. Argentine pass is right of center in the photo.
Link to an image of the Waldorf Mill, 1941.

In 1898 William Rogers discovered the Santiago Mine 500 feet above Waldorf. It is most likely named due to the capture of Santiago, Cuba at this time during the Spanish-American war. The mine became most productive in the early 1900s. The ore from the area mines was milled in Waldorf and then transported down to Silver Plume to be smelted. The income was not enough to keep up with the cost of this process, so the railroad was extended close to the top of McClellan Mountain as a tourist attraction. The end of this extension was at 13,040 feet, allowing you to take a train to withing walking distance of the top of a mountain. At the end of the line was the Crystal Palace mine, which had ice crystals in it all year long. This became part of the attraction for the railroad route. In 1909 an spur from the new tourist route was extended to the Santiago Mine. Later in 1913 an arial tram was built from the Santiago mine down to the mill in Waldorf. The Santiago continued opperations in the 1940s.

The railroad went bankrupt in 1912 and the rails were pulled up changing the road bed into an automobile road. The post office also closed this same year. Later in 1960 the old hotel was set on fire, then in 1962 the boarding house was destroyed, followed by the loss of the old post office in the early 1970s.

Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 1, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 1998. Print.
Description:
Starting from a pulloff at one of the hairpin turns on the Guanella Pass Road, the graded road to Waldorf will climb above and parallel to the Guanella Pass Road. Just past the first hairpin turn you will come to an intersection. Take the right to stay on the Leavenworth Creek Road. The left will head up to mine tailings. Shortly you will cross a bridge over Leavenworth Creek. Past the creek crossing the road will turn to the right and then climb up three successive switchbacks. At the last one you will intersect with the old rail road grade. To the right is the Pavilion Point Trail, which follows the old railroad grade. Continue around the switchback to the left to begin following the Argentine Central Railroad right of way, which is the Leavenworth Creek road.

The railroad grade will be above Leavenworth Creek as it heads up the valley. The road will be graded and about one and a half lanes wide, running at a 6 percent grade. Heading up the valley you will have Leavenworth Mountain, then Pendleton Mountain, on your right, with Paines Mountain on the other side of the valley. After just over a mile from the last hairpin turn you will come to an intersection with a road heading down to the creek. This is a spur road that connects to the Waldorf, FR248.1B, road. The pine trees will start to give way to aspens as you continue on the Waldorf road. After just under a mile and a quarter of heading southwest, you will come to another intersection. This is another road, FR248.1P, that heads down to the Waldorf road. Ganley Mountain will now be to the northwest, with Paines Mountain still to the southeast.

The pine trees will start to take over along the road. After another one and a quarter miles you will come to a four way intersection. A road will head down, on your left, into what looks like a boulder filled run off channel. This is the Waldorf, FR248.1B, road again. Just a bit further up the road is a turn to the right. This is FR248.1K, which will also go to Waldorf, but is a two track that climbs up above the railroad grade. These two roads are the orginal wagon road that accessed the mines in the Argentine District before the railroad was built. Continue straight on the the railroad grade. The pine forest will thin out a bit now, giving you views of the broad valley below Argentine Pass where the headwaters of Leavenworth Creek lie. After another 0.65 miles you will come to another intersection with a road going down into the valley. This is FR248.1J which goes only a short distance to a campsite.

After a half mile you will pass a private home along side the road. Another 0.35 miles will bring you to the site of Waldorf and the large tailings pile from the Waldorf Mine. The only structure here is an old metal quonset hut.

Waldorf Mine tailings, 2003

photo by:
Adam M

From Waldorf, the road heading west, after crossing the tailings, is the Argentine Pass, FR724.1, road. The road heading up toward McClellan Mountain past the quonset hut is the McClellan Mountain, FR248, road. The road climbing straight up hill next to the mine portal is FR248.2C, which will connect into the McClellan Mountain road.
Data updated - December 28, 2019      4WD Road driven - July 10, 2005      Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2020