Yankee Boy Basin

Ouray, Colorado (Ouray County)

Last Updated: 09/13/2019
4.3 /5 ( 6 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: 07/01 - 11/01
Difficulty: 1-4
Length: 9.4 miles
Highest Elevation: 12272 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: West
Nearest Town: Ouray
Nearest Town w/ Services: Ouray
Official Road Name: 853
Management Agency: Uncompahgre National Forest
District: Montrose Ranger District
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles


Highlight: Yankee Boy Basin

Picture the grandeur of Colorado, and the area that comes to mind may certainly be Yankee Boy Basin. This spectacular area has been immortalized in many landscape photos and calendars of Colorado mountains. Yankee Boy Basin offers something for most anyone that makes the trek into its mountains. From some of the most lush and beautiful evergreen forests one can imagine, seemingly infinite fields of wildflowers that stretch from peak to peak in the later part of July, to stunning craggy peaks that stand watch over the area, including the formidable 14,158 foot Mt. Sneffels. In addition to the natural wonders of Yankee Boy Basin, this area once held some of the richest mining history in the state of Colorado. Still active gold and silver mines contrast the approximately 130 year old mining ruins present from a bygone era. More information about the mining industry in the area as well as splendid photographs of the mines working in their heyday can be found at Miningartifacts.org



7 day forecast for Yankee Boy Basin

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
This trail is relatively flat with only small rocks. Easily traversed by a stock 4x4 with low range.

Technical Rating: 1-4

Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.

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The majority of Yankee Boy Basin is very smooth and easy to navigate. The lower section of the route is marked as Camp Bird Road and has two active mines along it, Camp Bird Mine and the Virginius-Revenue Mine. As a result of this, heavy truck traffic is possible. Areas of the trail that are narrow have many spots to pull off and let traffic pass. Be aware that the shelf road areas of the route have no guard rails and the bottom of the canyon is several hundred feet below. Above the Governor Basin intersection the trail becomes more rocky as the trail climbs above timberline. The trail in its entirety is easily passable by stock high clearance four wheel drives despite this.


1. Trailhead (0.00 mi)

The trailhead is well marked on the south side of US 550. There is plenty of area for vehicles to stage and air down. This area is also a trailhead for the Ouray Perimeter and Ice Park Loop hiking trails. The first 1.5 miles of the route are dotted with residential homes. Please be mindful of those with homes in the area and reduce your speed accordingly.

2. Angel Creek Campground (1.80 mi)

The trail passes Angel Creek Campground at this point. This is one of two Forest Service campgrounds in this area. Thistledown Campground is approximately 300 yards further up Camp Bird Road. These paid Forest Service campgrounds are the only available camping in the area and are often filled up in the summer months. Signs are posted past the campgrounds stating that camping is not permitted past this point.

3. Cliff-Top Overlook (2.90 mi)

The route quickly rises in altitude and begins to traverse a steep cliff. Spectacular views of Canyon Creek at the base of the canyon and it's tributaries are seen in all directions cascading down from the mountains high above. The road in this area is narrow enough for only one vehicle at a time, however there are plenty of pull off areas to let traffic pass.

4. Scenic Waypoint (4.30 mi)

The route levels off briefly and the cliffs widen to reveal the beautiful views in all directions.

5. Camp Bird Mine/ Imogene Pass Intersection (4.50 mi)

The route forks at the the active Camp Bird Mine, stay right at the fork and follow signs for Forest Service Road 853. The road to the left at the fork is the main access road to Imogene Pass. Originally established in 1896 as a lead-copper-zinc ore mine, Camp Bird later struck a quartz vein that assayed as high as $3000/ton in gold. During its peak, the mine produced approximately 1.5 million ounces of gold, and 4 million ounces of silver, from 1896 to 1990. Modern portable toilets are found at the intersection.

6. The Drinking Cup (5.20 mi)

At this point the trail narrows again to a high shelf road and passes under a massive granite outcropping that hangs out over the road. This area is called the "Drinking Cup" because of a constant flow of water that drips out of the bottom of the rock outcropping onto the center of the trail. Legend has it that miners would stop at this point on their way up to the mines in the area and fill their cups and canteens without ever having to leave the wagon.

7. Imogene Pass Alternate Northern Access Intersection (6.00 mi)

Stay straight at the intersection and continue to follow signs for FS 853. The trail intersects at this point with the trailhead for Imogene Pass Alternate Northern Access. Modern portable toilets are present at this point.

8. Atlas Mill (6.60 mi)

The remnants of the huge Atlas Mill can be seen to the south at this point. Not much information is found on the history of the Atlas Mill. The stamps and some of the drive pulleys are still visible. This area is private property, please take only photos and do not attempt to collect any artifacts.

9. Governor Basin Intersection (6.80 mi)

Bear right at the fork and follow signs for Yankee Boy Basin. The trail intersects with the Governor Basin trailhead at this point.

10. Twin Falls (7.40 mi)

A small pull off is present at this point. The hiking trail leading south from this point is a short walk that leads to the wonderful Twin Falls. This area is very popular for nature photographers and has appeared in many calendars and prints. Wildflowers are plentiful in this area in late July and the imposing Cirque, Teakettle, and Potosi Peaks tower above to the north.

11. Timberline Scenic Pull-Off (8.40 mi)

As the trail rises above timberline the views grow even more grand. Take a moment and pull into the small pull-off and take in the view of Yankee Boy Basin. The trail becomes more rough from this point but is still easily passable by a stock high clearance vehicle with low range.

12. End of Trail (9.40 mi)

The Blue Lakes hiking trail is found at the end of the official vehicle route of Yankee Boy Basin. No motorized vehicles are permitted from this point on. For those looking to continue their journey the Blue Lakes trail is an excellent route and this is also the starting point for those wishing to summit the 14,158 foot Mt. Sneffels to the northwest.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 38.015990, -107.672060

Starting Point: Ouray, CO

From the corner of US 550 and 6th Avenue in Ouray: Travel south on US 550 for 0.6 miles. In the first switchback as US 550 exits the town of Ouray, turn right and follow signs for Camp Bird Road and Box Canyon Falls. The trailhead is noted at the forest service information sign approximately 100 yards off of US 550. A large OHV Parking area is present across US 550 from Camp Bird Road.



Lodging is available in the town of Ouray. Along Camp Bird Road there are the Angel Creek and Thistledown US Forest Service campgrounds. No dispersed camping is available along the Yankee Boy Basin route. There is a sign on Camp Bird Mine Road past the Forest Service campgrounds that states "No camping beyond this point."

Camping: Yankee Boy Basin

Trail Reviews (10)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Driving with a Land Cruiser group all week from back east, we'd done half a dozen roads/trails across Colorado with the aim of ending the expedition in Ouray/Silverton. We arrived to Ouray on Friday and drove straight through town to Yankee Boy! The road is in decent shape, with some erosion and ruts, but overall Yankee Boy posed no problem for our group. Mountain views were awesome, though we did observe some haze due to smoke from a nearby controlled/prescribed burn. Overall, a fantastic 4x4 road!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The trail is 100% open from beginning to end including the spur around wrights lake. I would say the trail rating here is very deceiving... up to the split with Governors, yes, the trail is a 1, but beyond that no way. The remains of the avalanche just before twin falls have totally melted out around the road, but a massive amount of snow remains in the valley. Above the falls the trail might be a bit more rutted out in places, but is pretty much how I remember it from a few years ago. The trail is extremely busy, even during the week. Expect traffic the entire way. That is why I gave it only 3 stars. Dealing with all the traffic becomes tiresome.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
The trail shows pretty obvious signs of avalanche damage and repair. There was a pretty big one that hit right near the Imogene turn off. Lots of snapped fir and bent Aspen trees. I counted at least 4 avalanches between the start of Camp Bird road and the second mine activity. Just past the fork to Governor basin, the trail becomes difficult as drainage has routed itself down the road. This particular spot generated a bevy of traffic jams as vehicles had difficulty negotiating this new obstacle. Just at Twin Falls, there is a 36" washout you have to cross. We did a pickup truck recovery here as this full-size Silverado tried an alternate line over the dirt bank to the left and got high centered. Strapping down the hill (With gravity) did the trick. . Always try first to get unstuck the way they got stuck. A little past the bathrooms is the end of the line at a snowbank. It was still a beautiful trail ride with abundant wildflowers

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Although the trail is open, it is not 100% passable. The road is only cleared to the parking lot and bathrooms just beyond Twin Falls and waypoint 10. Beyond there it is not plowed so I assume they will let that melt out naturally.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Per Ouray Country: YANKEE BOY BASIN is now OPEN!! Thank you to our outstanding road and bridge crew! It was a challenge this year. Please enjoy with caution as road conditions are very wet and there may be standing water as well as ice or mud.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Per Ouray County Road and Bridge Dept: Yankee Boy Basin is nearly done being bulldozed and is projected to be open within the coming weeks.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
Heavy snow pack and late season snow falls have greatly affected the opening date to many of the trails in the San Juan Mountains. I will try to quickly update these trail guides to reflect when the hard working plow and dozer operators are able to dig these wonderful trails out for all of us to enjoy. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sanjuan/maps-pubs/?cid=fsbdev3_002300

Author: Official Crew
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:

Ouray County has announced that plowing operations have begun for these trails. From the county:

High Country Roads Opening Priority

May 6, 2019 Update

Crews will begin work May 6, 2019 with the goal to have all High Country Roads open by the July 4th weekend.

***Please be aware: Southwestern Colorado received an exceptional amount of snow during the 2018-2019 winter. Roads may be cleared later than usual, and dangers like avalanches may still exist into the summer months. Please use caution when venturing into these areas.***

(Note – Crew 1 and Crew 2 work concurrently)

Crew 1: Yankee Boy (Depending on snowfall, anticipated time to reach the Outhouses is 4 days.)

Crew 2: Red Mountain Town – Open the Main Loop

Crew 1: Corkscrew

Crew 2: Engineer

Crew 1: Imogene

Crew 2: Crews will move to help open Imogene after the completion of Engineer

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The county announced today that Yankee Boy Basin is open all the way through. Plow crews have been working there all week and cleared it today. This is weather pending and can change if there is a storm.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Snow has fallen making this trail impassable until next season, closed at the top by snow according to the U.S Forest Service. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sanjuan/maps-pubs/?cid=fsbdev3_002300

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Thinking of doing Yankee Boy Basin in a couple of weekends. Could a stock F150 or Tacoma TRD get to the end? If not how for can we reasonably expect to get? Thanks!
–Prosper Wang (09/06/2018)
A: I took a stock Chevrolet Avalanche to the top about a month ago. There were a couple tight spots and a couple places where you needed to choose your line carefully to prevent scrubbing underneath. Be sure to do Governor Basin while you're there. It's easier and has a great view.
–Neal A. Tew (10/03/2018)
A: Just tried this one this weekend... I would say you could make it at least 3/4 the way up, if not all the way. Even just getting up to that point is welllll worth it for the views. There is a section near the end with two large boulders in the middle of the road and you have to go pretty dang sideways on a wall to make it past them. I made it to that point in my stock Nissan Xterra, but didn’t want to test how sideways I could go haha.
–Alec Zamora (10/02/2018)
A: Meant to ask how far can we reasonably expect to get. Sorry about the typo.
–Prosper Wang (09/06/2018)

Writer Information

Greg Stokes

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Greg Stokes Is a Colorado native, born and raised in Colorado Springs. He has been off-roading since childhood, his parents say his first trip was a Jeep run over Medano Pass when he was only 14 Months old. Greg has been at the wheel of everything from dirtbikes, ATV's, early Jeep CJ5's that he has restored, Wranglers, and presently explores in a 1997 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser and a 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle. Greg is a proud Husband and Father of 3. His passion in the off road world is the vehicle-reliant world of Overlanding. He hopes to one day make it to Canada to Explore the Yukon and Northwest territories.
For individual use only, not to be shared.