Published with permission from the guide book: The Local’s Adventure Guide to Singletrack & Tarmac – Mountain Bike Trails and Road Rides in the Upper Arkansas River Valley by Nathan Ward.
Ghost Town Tour: Saint Elmo to Tin Cup
Tin Cup Pass crosses the Continental Divide and connects the ghost towns of Saint Elmo and Tin Cup. The ride follows a rough jeep road through forests of pine and aspen before climbing high above tree line. From the pass, the views of the Collegiate Peaks are fantastic. Both Saint Elmo and Tin Cup are famous mining towns in Colorado history with original 19th Century buildings and a feel of the old west. Saddle up, pardner.
Trailhead Access: Drive 16 miles north of Salida and look for the sign pointing to Saint Elmo. Turn west on CR 162 and drive 15 miles to Saint Elmo. Park in the middle of town along the fence on the south side of the street. Start riding.
Location: Saint Elmo
Distance: 26.8 miles – out and back
Riding Time: 3 – 4 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Dirt Road 26.8
Aerobic Level: Strenuous – climbing and altitude
Technical Difficulty: Intermediate – rough rocky road, fast descents, loose rocks
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 9,983; High Point 12,154; Climbs/Descends 4,232
Land Status: USFS – San Isabel and Gunnison National Forests
Maps: Saint Elmo, Cumberland Pass, Tin Cup
Note: ATVs and 4WDs frequent this route so watch for them.
Options: Saint Elmo, Cumberland Pass, Tin Cup
a. To cut the distance and time in half, just ride from Saint Elmo to the top of Tin Cup Pass. However, you won’t see Tin Cup and that’s a crying shame.
b. Ride one way to Tin Cup – have a friend drive from Saint Elmo to Buena Vista and over Cottonwood Pass to Tin Cup. Cottonwood Pass can be crossed by any type of vehicle and there are many great hikes and camping areas in Taylor Park to tailor this trip to all interests. (Note: Cottownwood Pass is closed for paving until the summer of 2019)
0.0 Ride down Main Street and turn north on CR 267. This road is unmarked, but heads down a short hill and crosses a wooden bridge over Chalk Creek.
0.1 Just past the bridge turn left on CR 267. Follow the sign to Tin Cup Pass.
0.2 Tin Cup Pass starts at the end of the street where the road splits. Take the rough right hand road uphill.
0.4 Poplar Gulch road turns right. Do not turn here. Stay on the pass going up. All along the pass are small roads turning off, do not take any of them. Always stay on the main road.
4.2 The Continental Divide Trail cuts left. Stay on the road.
5.4 A road turns to the right, stay on the main road. The road climbs above tree line and traverses the mountain below talus fields. Huge views.
6.5 The top of Tin Cup Pass at 12,154 feet above sea level! As you cross a flat saddle, the peak to the right (east) is Emma Burr Mountain (13,537 ft.) and the one to the left (west) is Fitzpatrick Peak (13,114 ft.).
6.7 On the far side of the saddle, ride the main jeep road downhill toward Mirror Lake.
7.2 The road forks. Stay on the left road, FSR 267.
8.1 Stay on the main road (FSR 267) downhill.
9.5 Ride through East Willow Creek before Mirror Lake. Old miners said Mirror Lake was bottomless, but it’s just really deep. Stay on the road along the eastern shore of the lake – sometimes this section is underwater so you may have to carry/ride your bike along the trail just uphill from the road. Pass a parking area and the Mirror Lake Campground.
10.1 Stay on FSR 267 past the campground and heads toward Tin Cup. The peak on the right is Mount Kreutzer (12,094 ft.).
10.5 The Timberline Trail is on the right and there are pit toilets here. Follow FSR 267 as it continues downhill in a rough and rocky way, always staying on the main road.
13.4 Continue on FSR 267 through Tin Cup to the Town Hall – the white building at the crossroads that looks like a church. Tour around Tin Cup and look at the historic buildings. In the summer months, a small store and restaurant provides provisions. Follow the same route to return to Saint Elmo. Watch for ghosts and gold nuggets.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
Bicycle riding is a physically strenuous activity with many risks and dangers. Hazards, natural or man made, whether noted in this book or not, can be encountered at any time under any situation. As a cyclist, we assume you know your personal abilities and limitations. This book represents nothing more than a guide to the trails and roads and is not meant to replace your common sense, your ability to navigate in the wilderness or in traffic, or your ability to ride a bicycle safely.
In addition, the mileages and routes listed in this text are only suggestions. There may be variances and you may get lost. We recommend everyone uses a GPS and topographical map to navigate. Most routes in this text are located on public land, but some trails pass through or adjacent to private land. Respect the land owner’s rights and obey all signs regarding trail use. The same goes for wilderness areas which prohibit mountain bike riding. Neither the author, nor the publisher, nor anyone else mentioned in this book are responsible or liable in any way for any accident, injury or any action brought against anyone traveling any route listed in this book. All cyclists and their companions assume responsibility for themselves. Ride at your own risk.
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