Wager Gulch  
USGS 7.5' Map: Lake San Cristobal, Finger Mesa
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 2 BLM 3308, Cnty 36 2.50 9,320 to 12,320 ft. None 2-3 hours
County: Hinsdale
Adopted by:      
Managed by: BLM, Gunnison Field Office

Hinsdale County

650 South 11th Street
Gunnison, CO 81230

311 N. Henson Street
Lake City, Colorado 81235-0277


Summary: Wager Gulch runs up to the Continental Divide passing the well preserved ghost town of New Carson. On the other side of the divide is the ghost town of Old Carson.
Attractions: History, Mining, Scenery
Natural, closed by heavy snows
Best Time: June- Early, upper part may still be snowed in.
July - Late, most of the snow melted
August - Best
September - Best
October - Early snows can close the pass
Trail Heads

Camping: There are a few dispersed camp sites on the north starting point. Make sure you are past the private property along the road at the start.
Base Camp: Wager Gulch would not be a great place to base camp. Though there are other attractions in the area, there are other places that offer better base camps to explore from.
Fall Colors: The upper part of Wager Gulch has no aspen trees. The lower section offers some fall colors.
Navigation: From Lake City, CO head south on Colorado Highway 149, Gunnison Ave., toward 4th Street. Go 2.5 miles and turn right onto County Road 30. Go 9.1 miles and turn left onto County Road 36/County Road 9. This is the start of the Wager Gulch road to the ghost town of Carson.
History: Christopher J. Carson discovered traces of gold on the continetal divide several years before he staked the Bonanza King and several other claims. The Carson mining district was organized in 1881 at the head of Wager Gulch on the north and the head of Lost Trail creek on the south. In 1882 a camp was started on both sides of the divide named after Christopher. The upper camp was high above timberline just below the divide while the lower camp at the head of Wager Gulch was situated in a meadow among pines. During the 1880s and early 1890s Carson was very active with several mines; the Chandler, the Legal Tender, the Kit Carson, the George III, Duderber, Iron Mask, Cresco, the St. John's, Maid of Carson, and St. Jacob's.

To get the ore out of Carson a road was needed. One was started from Lake City, but it took until 1887 to reach the town. After the silver crash of 1893 Carson was quiet until 1896 when more gold claims were discovered. In 1898 the St. Jacob's was the best producer of high grade ore with a single year's record of $190,000. A boarding house was erected and a smelter put in with four to five hundred people living in the camp. The Bachelor mine was also a large producer in close proximity to "new" Carson in Wager Gulch. It continued to produce until 1910. But for the two towns, by the end of 1902 they had become practically abandoned.

During the 1940's ghost town researcher Muriel Sibell Wolle and a friend used horses to get to new Carson and had a difficult time crossing an old bridge over Wager Creek. In the 1960's when author Robert Brown drove there the bridge was gone and has been replaced by a ford. The road at that time was considered one of the more challenging in the state. Later a culvert was installed over Wager Creek and the road improved.

Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns, Colorado Style, Vol 3 Southern Region Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 2001. Print.
Wolle, Muriel Sibell, Stampede to Timberline Chicago, Illinois: Sage Books, 1949. Pring.
Brown, Robert L., Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1963. Print.
As you start Wager Gulch road you will pass a driveway on your left, then you will come to an intersection. Take the left and continue up hill passing two driveways on your right and one on your left. Continue up hill through a switchback. The road will follow Wager Creek. There will be two more switchbacks as you climb above the creek and head through the forest. The road will then head back toward Wager Creek after passing an intersection to the left. Keep to the right.

After another switchback the road will cross a more open area of the gulch with Carson Mountain to the west. At the next intersection the left road will take you to the ghost town of "New" Carson, which is visible just across Wager Creek. There is an area to park and explore the building. Remember that they are private property. Take only pictures and leave the town as you found it. Do not camp in the town site. A short distance up the gulch from the town are the tailings of two mines.

photo by:
Adam M


photo by:
Adam M


photo by:
Adam M

Head back to the main road and continue up the gulch above timberline. The upper part of the gulch contains a lot of tailings from mining activity. The road will top out on the Continental Divide. Continuing over the divide will bring you to the ghost town of "Old" Carson. You can head back the way you came, or go east along the Continetal divide to take the Carson 4WD road out to Colorado 149 (this is a longer route back to pavement).
Road down from Continental Divide to New Carson

photo by:
Adam M

Data updated - March 20, 2017     4WD Road driven - July 27, 2010     Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2017