|Red Elephant Hill|
|USGS 7.5' Map:||Empire|
|Managed by:||Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest,
Clear Creek Ranger District
|101 Chicago Creek Road
P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
|Summary:||Red Elephant Hill 4WD road climbs the southwest flank of Red Elephant Hill right off of I-70. It is a continuous climb along a ledge road with two rock obstacles to navigate.
|Attractions:||Narrow ledge road. Rock obstacles.|
|Natural - closed by heavy snows.|
June - Early, road may be soft
July - Good
August - Best
September - Best
October - Good
|Camping:||There are no camping spots from the lower starting point near I-70 until you reach the top of Red Elephant Hill. Along the open meadows at the top there are campsites.|
|Base Camp:||The area around the top of Red Elephant Hill would be a good place to base camp. Bill Moore Lake, Mill Creek and the Empire Loop are near by as well as Democrat Mountain and Bard Creek. The town of Empire is also close for fuel and supplies.|
|Fall Colors:||Average - Red Elephant 4WD road runs through mostly pine forest. At the top are more aspen groves that afford some fall colors.|
|Navigation:||From I-70 take exit 234. Turn right into Downieville and then left on CR308. Follow CR308 for 1.2 miles look for a right turn immediately after passing under I-70. You'll pass through a residential area, the trail begins at the end of the street.|
|History:||D.C. Dulaney made the first discovery of silver ore on Red Elephant Hill in 1876. The Red Elephant mine was started and a the Red Elephant Mining Company ran a company camp here of the same name. The mines of the area were the Free America, Saint James, Yound America, Dexter, and Lulu. The post office was established in 1878. It lasted three years. The peak population was around 300. The mining was short lived and most of the miners moved down to Lawson as the minerals pinched out.
In the 1940s very little of Red Elephant remained. The mill down below in Lawson remained and had a trestle over the highway with a sign that had the outline of a red elephant on it.
|The Red Elephant 4WD road is a moderately difficlut road to the top of Red Elephant Hill. It is tight and steep as it climbs through the trees on the southeast flank of Red Elephant Hill. The narrow ledge and steep incline combine to make mistakes difficult to recover from. You must pay attention to the road all the way to the top.
Starting at the right turn off of CR308 the road travels a short distance past a few houses and then begins to climb. You will pass a few intersections that go to old mine sites, stay with the main road. There will be four switchbacks to navigate as you pass the White mine and the Boulder Nest mine. Finally you will start the climb along the west side of a narrow creek.
The first obstacle is near a large tree. The approach to the obstacle makes you move out to the edge of the road making errors hard to correct. There is a fan of loose rocks and dirt falling away from the obstacle to the edge of the road. The rock step and tree roots combine with the steep incline to make this obstacle a bit harder. If the ground is wet it will compound the difficulty.
The second obstacle is similar but more open. It is also a longer field of boulders and rock to navigate. The road is less steep here, but the challenge still exists to get through the boulders on an incline.
Just past this obstacle is a switchback and a short climb to a more level part of Red Elephant. There will be a nice place for lunch on the right hand side, or it could be used as a campsite. There is a second campsite just up the road.
The road continues along a saddle of Red Elephant Hill to another pair of campsites. The second one is near a sinkhole with views to the southwest. From here you will pass two intersections to your right, stay to the left and you will connect with the upper section of the Empire Loop. Head south down to CR251 and North Empire Creek to connect with the highway in Empire.
|Data updated 01/30/12 4WD Road driven 07/14/11 Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2012|