Family hike on Guanella Pass: Silver Dale and Colorado Central Mill

Back in the late 1800s, mining towns and camps were springing up all over the area around Georgetown. One of them was named Silver Dale, likely because of the amount of Silver being discovered in the area. Today, the Silver Dale townsite is a protected historic district with several trails (directions below).

There are a couple options for exploring this area. A map at the start of the trail lists five trails here -- Chicago Lakes, Clear Lake, Highline, Railbed and Sporting Times. Quite honestly, I tried to hike those trails, but there were no trail markers when I visited in summer 2016 except for the Rutherford Trail which isn't even listed on the map.

After some random exploring, I decided to start over and find Silver Dale and the Colorado Central Mill. To find these site, take a picture of the map at the beginning of the trail and really pay attention as you walk. I would also recommend a GPS or a map program on your phone that shows how far you've walked.


From the sign, follow the main, wide, dirt trail. It's less than a tenth of a mile to a nice bridge over the creek. After crossing the bridge, set your mapping device to zero.

The map shows a turnoff after 0.04 miles, another after an extra 0.9 miles and a third after .10 miles. So about .23 from the bridge, turn right and follow a path slightly uphill. From here it's less than a tenth of a mile to several metal remnants, then the concrete remnants of the large mill.

 

A sign at the trailhead said the mill operated in the 1920s and the remnants are owned by Georgetown. Be careful exploring in this area. There are nails, bits of concrete and other mining remnants, along with glass and other remnants left by careless visitors and campers.

When you're done exploring in this area, return to the main trail where you turned off and continue on the main path for less than a tenth of a mile to a sign for the Rutherford Trail. According to a proclamation naming the trail in 2011, the Rutherford family had a stable and freight hauling business that hauled ore from the mines in the Argentine mining district and blocks of ice from the forebay reservoir at the entrance to the Silver Dale area.

Once you find the sign, it's time to start exploring. Go left, right and back and forth. Look just along the path and slightly into the trees. This is like a scavenger hunt. I spotted metal buckets, metal rings, concrete pieces, brick pieces, a metal box and other remnants. When I asked a hiker who lived in the area where Silver Dale was, she replied, "all over here."

Details: Exploring Silver Dale and the mill site is about a mile roundtrip, depending on how much exploring you do.

Important note: After exploring Silver Dale, drive south (up) on Guanella Pass Road about 0.3 miles to a waterfall on your right and another Silver Dale sign on your left. If you pull off here and walk down the road at the Silver Dale sign, you'll find the remnants of a large building considered part of the remnants of Silver Dale.

Directions: From I-70, take the Georgetown Exit #228 and follow signs for Guanella Pass Road-Scenic Byway. Drive up Guanella Pass hill about 2 miles to the Silver Dale parking lot, about 0.3 miles past the first reservoir.

Find more hikes and fun things around Colorado in our Discover Colorado section including:

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