|Typically Open:||07/01 - 11/01|
|Highest Elevation:||12272 feet|
|Duration:||About 2 hours|
|Shape of Trail:||Out & Back|
|Best Direction to Travel:||West|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Ouray|
|Official Road Name:||853|
|Management Agency:||Uncompahgre National Forest|
|District:||Montrose Ranger District|
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
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.Read more about our rating system
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.
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.
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.
The route levels off briefly and the cliffs widen to reveal the beautiful views in all directions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bear right at the fork and follow signs for Yankee Boy Basin. The trail intersects with the Governor Basin trailhead at this point.
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.
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.
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.
Starting Point: Ouray, CO
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."
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