Russell Gulch  
USGS 7.5' Map: Central City
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 2 CR279 4.3 9,200 ft. NA 2-3 hours
County: Clear Creek and Gilpin
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Clear Creek County

Gilpin County

405 Argentine St.
Georgetown, CO 80444

203 Eureka Street
Central City, CO 80427


Summary: Russell Gulch is an easy drive from Russel Gulch to Idaho Springs along county roads past some of the old mines of Gilpin County.
Attractions: Historic sites, Mine sites.
Natural - The county roads are closed by heavey snows.
Best Time: June - Best July - Best August - Best September - Best for fall colors October - Dependend on snow
Trail Heads

Camping: There are no camping opportunities along the road due to the amount of private property in the vicinity.
Base Camp: NA
Fall Colors: Good - The Russell Gulch route would be a good fall color road with its aspen and views of the ghost town of Russell Gulch. The deep gulches on the Idaho Springs side afford views of distant aspen.
Navigation: From I-70 take exit 240, Idaho Springs. Turn right onto 13th Avenue and follow it for 0.1 miles to Virginia Street. Turn right and go 0.3 miles to CR279/Virginia Canyon Road. Turn left and CR279 for 0.5 miles. Take a right to stay on CR279 and go 0.3 miles to a left at a hairpin turn. Stay on CR279 and go 1.6 miles to a right turn to stay on CR279. Go 1.2 miles and at the "Y" intersection take the right, CR279. This is the start of the Russell Gulch road.

History: Russell Gulch was the location where William Green Russell made a second discovery of gold south of Central City in 1859. This was after his first discovery of gold in Cherry Creek near Denver. His new discovery touched off a rush and by the summer nearly 800 prospectors were in the area producing an average of $35,000 a week. During the winter the residents organized the town and drew up some of the first mining laws in the territory. Women had the same rights to hold a claim as men, and even children older than ten were able to hold a claim.

The Fourth of July was always a big celebration in those days and the residents of Russell Gulch were not an exception. During their first year in 1859, with the nearest U.S. flag at Fort Laramie hundreds of miles to the north they made a giant flag out of overalls, white shirts, and red flannels. By 1860 the population in Russell Gulch had reached 2,500. The business district had saloons, stores, assay offices, and a meat market. The town also built a Methodist church, a brick Federal Hall and a two story red brick school house, which still stands today.

The placer gold soon ran out and within 4 years the population of Russell Gulch dropped considerably. Hard rock mining, drilling and blasting, soon replaced the easier placer mining that used sluices and waterwheels to wash gold from the creek. By the 1880s the population was less than 400. Russell Gulch held on through the early 1900s and had another small boom mining uranium in the 1920's. During the prohibition era bootleggers used the old mine shafts to hide whiskey.

William Russell left the area in 1862 to joing the Confederate Army in his native state of Georgia. He was from Auraria in Lumpkin County, Georgia where he had taken part in the 1927 gold rush in northwestern Georgia. Later he returned and stayed in Russell Gulch until 1875 when he and his Cherokee wife went to Oklahoma to join the Cherokees there.
Starting in Russell Gulch, Colorado head south on County Road 279 to the intersection with Druid Mine Road. Take a left here, this is the Russell Gulch route that passes by the Iron mine, Old Town Mine and Richardson Mine. There are quite a few buildings and headframes in the area to investigate. This is private property so take only pictures.
Iron Mine headframe

photo by:
Rachel K

Iron Mine building

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Richardson Mine

photo by:

Richardson Mine remains

photo by:
Paula K

The county road will continue around Pewabic Mountain leading you to the Frontenac mine. There will be a right spur going up hill that you will take that birngs you to the Frontenac Mine or you can stay on the main road which will bring you to another right turn that takes you up to the Frontenac Mine from below. As you come into view of an opening, South Willis Gulch, you can see the Frontenac mine up toward the head of the gulch. There is a short spur road out to the mine. It is private property, take only pictures.
Frontenac Mine

photo by:
Paula K

Frontenac Mine

photo by:
Paula K

Frontenac Mine


photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Frontenac Mine


Gilpin Historic Society

Below the Frontenac mine the road drops down through some revegetated tailings and connects back with the main road that loops around a ridge of Pewabic Mountain. You will come to more openings as the road heads along the side of Pleasant Valley past the Colfax Mine, which is a private residence.

Continue following the main road to a small saddle that contains a large amount of tailings. This is where the Minott Mine, Searle Shaft Mine, Jackson Mine and Sun and Moon Mine were worked. Beyond the saddle you will loop around the head of Gilson Gulch on the Santa Fe Mine Road and have good views of the Hope Mine and Frieghters Friend Shaft Mine below.

After coming around Seaton Mountain you will cross another small saddle before tieing back into Virginia Canyon Road, aka Oh My God Road, which is the main branch of County Road 279. Heading down Virginia Canyon Road will take you to Idaho Springs, heading up will take you back to Russell Gulch.
Data updated - February 4, 2012       4WD Road driven - July 11, 2011       Copyright - 2000-2012