Go on a hike in the backcountry of Breckenridge takes you by mills, mines and ghost towns.
Park in the parking lot and begin walking up the Jeep road labeled GH09.
A short distance from the trailhead, you may notice a split. The Jeep road turns to the right and a wide, rocky, dirt path veers left. The dirt path is the old stagecoach route. Take it.
As you walk here, look next to the road for metal remnants and other items. Think of it like a scavenger hunt. We found a metal pipe, a metal box of some sort and a large “can dump.”
The “can dump” is fascinating. While it’s really just a trash pile, look carefully.
Our guide, Ronnie P. from the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, explained that finding porcelain meant that women lived in the area (because men would just use their gold pan as a plate).
Look at the cans, were they opened with a can opener or just a knife in the top?
A half mile from the trailhead, you’ll come to your first major site – the Jessie Mill. The Jessie Mine, way up the hill above the mill, produced gold, silver and lead in the 1880s to the 1930s. The Jessie is only stamp mill left standing in Summit County, Breckenridge Heritage Alliance director Larissa O’Neil told the Summit Daily newspaper.
Even from the road, you can see where ore would drop down the chutes to the stamps (rock crushers).
This building is up the road from the Jessie Mill and is the old boarding house for the Jessie Mine and Mill.
A look inside the old boarding house for the Jessie Mine and Mill.
More remnants outside the old boarding house for the Jessie Mine and Mill.
About 1 mile from the trailhead, you’ll spot a trail on the left that says Summit County and Breckenridge Open Space. This was an old aquifer/trench created by the miners to move water and ore down the mountain. Sluice boxes were erected in much of the trench. You’ll see some of those remnants a little further up the trail.
This is the Upper Flume bike trail that heads downhill.
Watch for trees that look like this. Elk rub their antlers on the trees to get rid of the itchy, velvet covering.
This is the Extension Mill. The book “Geology and Ore Deposits of the Breckenridge Mining District,” by Thomas Seward Lovering says the Detroit Mine, about a mile away, would ship its high-grade ore to Breckenridge, but ship its lower-grade ore to the Extension Mill.
Lovering said the mill processed 25 tons of ore each day by using cyanide to extract the gold and silver.
The Extension was also a stamp mill, you can still see the concrete stamp pads. You can walk the road around the mill, but don’t walk on the mill site – there are deep holes under the wood, there are tons of nails and it’s dangerous.
The Extension Mill is a large pile of wood remnants and includes a huge Portland filter/rock tumbler. You can't miss this thing, it’s 20 feet tall! The mesh on the top is where the gold would get collected.
Look at the bottom, at the gray powder/rock at the bottom. Don’t touch it! That’s likely cyanide sludge.
When arrive at Preston ghost town, the first building you’ll likely spot is an A-frame on the right. This was likely some sort of home.
At the four-way intersection with County Road GH7, you should see more remnants on your left. That’s the remains of the old boardinghouse that likely slept about 30 people
One of the cabins, the one high on the hill, had a wooden floor, meaning the owner had money, Ronnie P explained.
That cabin also has an outhouse that’s been tipped on its side. Ronnie explained that fortune hunters often tip over outhouses looking to see if someone hid gold or other precious metals there.
Another old cabin at Preston.
As you walk the road, once again, look on the sides of the road. You may spot a cast iron millstone grinder. It’s that metal thing under a tree that says “The F.M. Davis Iron Wks Co Denver Co.”
Another shot of cast iron millstone grinder. Now you can read “The F.M. Davis Iron Wks Co Denver Co.”
At the top of the hill are the remnants of the Jumbo Mine. You’ll find a cabin up here that was likely a store.
At the top of the hill are the remnants of the Jumbo Mine.This is remnants of the shaft housing.
From the top, look down into the forest below the mine to see what mining chemicals did to an area. Our guide called this “Desolation Forest.”
From the Jumbo Mine, you can look across the valley and see the Jessie Mine in the distance. It's above the Jessie Mill we walked by earlier.