By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com
There are lots of historic trails in the Breckenridge area and the trek to the Sallie Barber Mine may be one of the easiest. The hike is 1.4 miles each way with just 400 feet of elevation gain. While it’s not “easy” for some people, it is easy compared to most trails in the Colorado high country.
The trek starts on French Gulch Road, just 3.8 miles from Highway 9 (see directions below). The trailhead has a sign with a map and space for about 15 vehicles.
Walk up French Gulch Road about 0.1 miles to a trailsplit. Turn right onto another wide road, #2651. There’s a slight drop down, then the trail begins climbing up. As you’re hiking here, enjoy the mountain vistas and the sunlight, because after 0.25 miles, the road travels into the forest and the shade.
The next 1.15 miles or so are a peaceful trek in the morning before the crowds arrive. The road/trail is wide enough for 2 to 3 people to walk side-by-side and talk. Just step out of the way of any cross-county skiers coming downhill. The elevation gain is slight, but it can take your breath away because the trail starts at 10,335 feet.
After 1.4 miles, the trail comes to the top of small hill and you see it — the ore bin, loading shaft and headframe of the Sallie Barber Mine. Signs at the site explain that the mine opened in 1880. Miners found lead carbonate and sulfide ore with zinc. The zinc sulfide was too expensive to mine so the mine was abandoned. Two years later, another group of miners stuck galena and carbonates that had lead and silver. By 1899, the mine had made $1,000 and was getting larger. The mine was abandoned in 1911, but restarted for a short time during World War I to mine zinc.
While the mining structure is impressive, imagine what’s underground. Miners worked on four levels — the lowest is 365 feet below the surface. Even in the snow, you should be able to spot the machinery from the steam plant, including the boiler and the hoist. There are three informational signs around the mine. From the sign on the backside of the mining building, you may spot Keystone Ski Resort in the distance. Look below the sign, and you may see an old abandoned car.
After you explore, it’s time to decide if you want to turn around or go further. There’s a 7.5 mile loop in the area called the Nightmare on Baldy Mine tour. If that’s too much, how about the extra mile (each way) to the True Romance Mine?
As you came up the trail to the Sallie Barber, there was another trail to the left behind the informational sign. You may spot an old cabin here under the snow.
A very small sign on this trail says, “Nightmare on Baldy.” This is the trail to the True Romance Mine.
As you hike up the hill, you may come across several trails, don’t turn off. You need to climb pretty much straight up the hillside about a third of a mile and 300 feet in elevation. There, the uphill trail stops at a trail that goes right and left. Go left.
It’s about two-thirds of a mile on this old road to an open area with a single pole that says “True Romance.” This is the site of the old mine. On the right side of the trail, you may spot the opening of an old mine shaft — it just depends on how much snow has fallen.
When you’re done enjoying the views, return the way you came.
Details: The hike to the Sallie Barber Mine is 2.8 miles with 400 feet of elevation gain. The hike to the Sallie Barber and True Romance mines is 4.8 miles with about 800 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Interstate 70, take Highway 9 toward Breckenridge. Near town, turn left on Huron Road/CR 450. (There was a popular 7-Eleven there in 2013.) Take Huron Road about 0.4 miles to Reiling Road and turn right. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left on Franch Gulch Road. Take French Gulch Road 2.7 miles to the trailhead.