|USGS 7.5' Map:||Grays Peak|
|Managed by:||Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest,
Clear Creek Ranger District
|101 Chicago Creek Road, P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
|Summary:||McClellan Mountain follows the old railroad spur from Waldorf to the top of McClellan Mountain. It has many spurs to the mines above Waldorf, including the Santiago.|
|Attractions:||Mining, Railroad, Scenic views|
|Nature - Closed by heavy snows. (No access when Guanella Pass is closed)|
June - May still be snowed in
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Possible early snows
|Camping:||There are no dispersed camp sites.|
|Base Camp:||This would be a good area to base camp to explore the 4WD roads around Waldorf and Argentine Pass.|
|Fall Colors:||Poor - The road is mainly above timberline. The lower valley has aspen.|
|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. Drive 6.1 miles to the ghost town of Waldorf and turn sharp right to start up McClelland Mountain road.|
|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 a spur from the new tourist route was extended to the Santiago Mine. Later in 1913 and 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.
|Starting from the ghost town of Waldorf, head northeast, uphill, on a two track road to the right of the quanset hut. This is the spur branch from the Argentine Central Railroad that went to McClelland Mountain. The road will climb for over a half mile before coming to a large group of intersections. The road on your left heading back west is FR248.2C. It will come to a fence and then turn downhill to make a steep decent back to Waldorf. This is the road that you saw going straight uphill from the large tailings of the Waldorf mine back at the start. The road to your right is not a legal route. Going a bit further, you will come to the rest of the intersection. The road on the left is an un-numbered, well defined road that connects with FR248.2D. The road to the right is FR248.2A, which heads northeast and has multiple branches. Continue straight ahead to stay with FR248. After 0.35 miles you will come to another intersection. The road going off to the left is FR248.2D, which goes to the Santiago mine. The buildings are no longer accesable.
Continue straight for another 0.25 miles to the first switchback below a large tailings pile. At the switchback a road, FR248.2E, continues to the right, ending at a tailings pile. Trains could not make the switchback, so in order to continue the rail line would continue beyond the switchback for a distance, a switch would change the track, and the train would back up to the next switchback, repeating the process, but going forward to continue. After making the switchback you will go just over a half mile to the next switchback. There will once again be a road that continues beyond the switchback, FR248.2G, which also goes to tailings. Make the sharp turn and continue climbing. (If you were on the train, you would be going forward now). Very shortly you will come to a spur road on the left, FR248.2H, which also goes to tailings. Continue with the main road which will curve around a steep slope. If your too early in the year you might run into snow drifts.
Sometimes a little shovel work will get you past these late summer drifts. But, there always seems to be more!
More shovel work may get you passage.
Finally after a long run along the slope you will come to the second to last switchback. The road that continues beyond the switchback is the Denarious Mine, FR248.2I, road. Make the switchback and you will only need to go 0.65 miles to the first overlook to the west from McClellan Mountain.
From this spot it is another half mile to the last switchback, then a short final drive to the end of the line. This is where the trains would let the tourists out to take in the view. (See the picture above in the history section.)
|Data updated - December 28, 2019 4WD Road driven - July 10, 2005 Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2020|