Lost Canyon  
Maps:        
USGS 7.5' Map: Granite
Statistics:
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 3 FR 398 7.18 9,470 to 12,520 ft. None 4-5 hrs
County: Chaffee
Adopted by:      
Managed by: San Isabel National Forest,
Leadville Ranger District
810 Front Street
Leadville, CO 80461
719-486-0749
Summary: Lost Canyon 4WD road climbs up Lost Canyon to a heavily mined area then ends in a saddle between two unnamed peaks east of Quail Mountain.
Attractions: Mining, Fall Colors
Seasonal
Closure:
Natural - Closed by heavy snows
Best Time: June - Lower section may be open
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Early snows may block the road
Trail Heads
Accessed:
Colorado Trail, FT1776 - Hike, Pack and Saddle, Mountain Bike
Camping: There are dispersed campsites along the lower part of the road.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to base camp and explore the 4WD roads and hiking trails around Twin Lakes.
Fall Colors: Very Good - The lower third of the road goes through large aspen groves.
Navigation: From Leadville, CO head south on Harrison Ave toward E 6th Street for 0.4 miles. Continue onto Silver Drive for 0.3 miles. Continue to follow US-24 E for 16.9 miles. Turn right onto County Road 398 (Parts of this road may be closed at certain times or days) and go 2.8 miles. Turn left onto County Road/Forest Road 398.

From Buena Vista, CO head north on US-24 W toward W Sterling Ave for 16.6 miles. Turn left onto County Road 398 (Parts of this road may be closed at certain times or days) and go 2.8 miles. Turn left onto County Road/Forest Road 398.
History: The Cache Creek town site was about a mile and a half up Cache Creek from the present town of Granite. It was one of the earliest towns in the Arkansas River drainage. In early 1860 A.G. Kelley, and a group of 24 men traveled up the Arkansas River further than others had before. Where Pine Creek comes into the Arkansas River they found good paying placer gold. They named the site Kelley's Bar. Further up the Arkansas River where Clear Creek comes into the Arkansas River a party from Georgia discovered pacer gold, naming the place Georgia Bar. By April of 1860 the mouth of Cache Creek was being sluiced, the men finding lots of placer gold. From here the miners followed Cache Creek up to the foot of the mountains and set up a townsite. In 1862 Cache Creek got a post office under the name "Cash Creek". By 1866 the town was incorporated and small cabins lined the banks of Cache Creek on the dry sagebrush covered hills. The miners used extended sluice boxes called Long Toms to wash out $2 to $20 per day of gold. The flow of Cache Creek was low, so the miners built small reservoirs to capture the water and would release it multiple times per day. In 1865 the Gaff Mining Company of Cincinnati, Ohio purchased the placer claims at Cache Creek, and in the surrounding area. They built a two mile flume to bring water to the area to expand operations. In 1871 the Cache Creek post office was closed. Later the Twin Lakes Gold Mining Syndicate purchased the Gaff holdings and employed sixty men to work the area during the 1880s. The next investment was a tunnel from Clear Creek to the south, under the ridge separating Clear Creek from Cache Creek, bringing more water to the workings. By 1884 the tunnel was completed and production on Cache Creek tripled. No structures of the town site remain, though the creek bed is extensively widened bearing the scars of placer and hydraulic mining. Today the BLM owns the land around the site of Cache Creek and amateur gold panning is allowed in the area.

The Lost Canyon placers were at the head of Cache Creek high in the mountains. In 1860 a group of prospectors on their way back to Gunnison became lost. They were apparently more interested in finding gold than in finding their way home. They discovered gold nuggets the size of eggs, and according to the story, took out $60,000 in a few short weeks. They made their way out before winter set in. The prospectors returned the following spring, but could not find the location of their discovery. The place became known as Lost Canyon. Over a thousand men covered the area during the placer boom during the 1880s. Operations in Lost Canyon took place until 1959.

Eberhart, Perry Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1969. Print.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Vol 2 - Central Region Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publishing, 1999. Print.
Description:
At the large Y where you start FR398 you will take the left. The road will be graded as it climbs the foothills through the aspen and pine forest. After 0.85 miles you will come to a small meadow on your right and a smaller opening in the trees on your left. Both of these openings have dispersed campsites. Just past these small meadows you will come to the first switchback. On your left at the switchback is a spur road that goes to a third dispersed campsite a bit further off the road. This is also where the Colorado Trail ties in with the road for a short distance. The road will head to the north now climbing higher up into the foothills. You will be driving through aspen forest now.

Lower section in the aspen

photo by:
Adam M

The next switchback you come to will be a sharp hairpin heading you back south. You will continue through the aspen coming to the third switchback followed quickly by the fourth switchback. At the fifth switchback there will be a spur road on the left that goes onto a rocky point that has another dispersed campsite in the aspen trees. After making the sixth switchback the road will head around a small gully and then enter into pine forest. The road will once again be heading north toward Cache Creek in Lost Canyon. When the road comes back into the aspen trees it will head to the southwest and begin to follow Cache Creek. At the next switchback there will be a building with equipment parked out in front. There is also a spur road on the left that goes down to a private home. After making the switchback you will head away from Cache Creek back into the forest, continuing your climb. From here the road becomes less maintained. You will do another wide switchback that turns you back toward Cache Creek. You will once again be in aspen trees and soon following Cache Creek. Where the creek moves up to meet the road the canyon will narrow. There will be a spur road on the left that goes to a steel building. There will also be some equipment here. You are now in the area where placer mining took place. A bit past the spur you will see a small cabin up above the road on the right. Here the road will Y. Take the right going uphill. The left will stay close to the creek. Just past the Y you will come to a cross intersection. The road going right and back climbs the ridge to a flat area. The road to the left goes a short distance down to the road by the creek. Continue straight ahead. The road will continue up to a saddle with the remains of a large log cabin.
Old cabin above timberline

photo by:
Adam M

At the cabin is a view to the north of Twin Lakes. Also, there will be another short spur that drops to the lower road. Continue on the road to the right and head along the ridge. The next two lefts connect together and go to a modern mine operation at the head of Cache Creek. Staying to the right the road will enter into an alpine zone.
Upper section at the head of Lost Canyon

photo by:
Adam M

As you climb through the low brush you will pass a spur road on the right that goes a short distance and ends. The road will get rougher through this section. A bit more climbing will bring you into view of the mine buildings below along Cache Creek. The brush will now become sparse as you start across tundra. At the intersection stay to the left. The road to the right goes a short distance to to overlooks.
Past the head of Lost Canyon (haze is smoke from forest fire)

photo by:
Adam M

As the road heads across the tundra to the south you will come to a small rocky section. Past that you will come to a sign marking the official end of the Forest Service road. If you walk a short distance from here you come to the Columbine Mine on the ledge above Sheephead Gulch.
Columbine Mine

photo by:
Adam M

Columbine Mine

photo by:
Adam M


Data updated - February 2, 2021        4WD Road driven - September 7, 2020        Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2021