Iron Chest

St. Elmo, Colorado (Chaffee County)

Last Updated: 07/27/2019
5 /5 ( 2 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Impassable
Typically Open: 06/15 - 10/31
Length: 2.7 miles
Highest Elevation: 12000 feet
Duration: About 1 hour 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: St. Elmo
Nearest Town w/ Services: Buena Vista
Official Road Name: CR 40
Management Agency: San Isabel National Forest
District: Salida Ranger District
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Highlight: Iron Chest
Lifts, lockers, driving experience and a set of calm nerves are required to tackle the trip up to the Iron Chest Mine. The rock garden at the beginning of this off-road trail is just one of the unique features, combined with the aerial views of St. Elmo below along the way, that make this one of the most authentic trails in Central Colorado. If you like mining history, rock gardens, shelf roads, epic views and spending time above timberline then this trail should be on your bucket list.



7 day forecast for Iron Chest

Route Information

Technical Rating:

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1. Trailhead (0.00 mi)
There is no trailhead sign and the trail is not marked. Pull into the parking area on your left and the trail begins from here.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 38.702368, -106.346530
To reach the Iron Chest trailhead, you must drive the first part of the Alpine Tunnel East Trail to waypoint 3. Turn left at waypoint 3 into a small parking area. The Iron Chest trail begins from this parking area. The trail is unmarked, but the boulders begin immediately, letting you know you are on the right trail!


Not allowed

Land Use Issues

This area is part of Pike-San Isabel National Forest, and as such is part of the 2011 Lawsuit where a coalition of conservation and recreation groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over what they say is the illegal addition of 500 miles of motorized roads and trails. A settlement was reached in late 2015 that is requiring the U.S. Forest Service to re-evaluate the roads and create a new travel management plan. Over the next year, 30 roads will be partially or completely closed while this evaluation takes place over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV community let's their voices be heard on this issue. If we do nothing, those 500 miles will be shutdown. Contact the local ranger districts and let them know why the area is important to you and the history you have there. Salida Forest Service District Office Leadville Forest Service District Office

Trail Reviews (5)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is open and clear to the top. No snow, no avalanche debris, only some small washouts in the middle of the trail from the heavy snowmelt. Those didn't cause any issues and will fill in with some trail use, but just something I noticed on my way up. The trail is very hard to pass with groups. If you are the leader of a group larger than 4, you should go way out in front of the group to scout for on coming traffic as there are not too many opportunities to pull over and pass more than 1 or 2 rigs.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
Snow has fallen closing this trail for the winter.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This trail is open and available for use. There has been some confusion recently as to its status due to it not being permitted to be used as part of the Set Them Free event. This is because Iron Chest is not a Forest Service road, therefore can not be permitted by the FS for an event. This does not make this trail illegal to drive or use, enjoy your trip.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is currently open to waypoint 7, avalanche chute #2.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is still blocked by snow at the avalanche chute at waypoint 6. Until that point, the trail was dry. Beyond that point the trail appeared dry as well. Some determined folks with shovels could make fairly quick work of the drifts, otherwise I expect it to melt out by the end of the month.

Questions & Answers (2)

Q: Coming in from Chicago and planning on hitting Chinamans and Iron chest. Would be wondering If it’s possible to do these in one day? Also wondering if trailing a 30’ gooseneck with at least one buggy is gunna be an issue anywhere?
–Nic lindsey (09/02/2019)
–Marcus Trusty (09/03/2019)
Q: On out and back trails, is the listed duration to go out and back, or is it each way? I assume out and back, but I have not found the answer.
–David Endicott (07/20/2019)
–Marcus Trusty (07/20/2019)

Writer Information

Marcus Trusty

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Marcus is a 3rd generation Buena Vista, Colorado native who grew up bouncing around the central Colorado mountains in the back of his dad's CJ5. During his younger years Marcus grew to appreciate public lands and the recreation opportunities backroads and 4-wheel drive trails offer. Marcus has been wheeling for 20 years now and has wheeled in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California. Until recently Marcus had just been a participant in the wheeling community, but recently he has become much more active in preserving trails and working to make sure the wheeling community has their access maintained for future generations. Marcus helped to found Colorado Off Road Enterprise - CORE, based out of Buena Vista. CORE has worked with the Forest Service and BLM and has volunteer agreements in place with both organizations. CORE also has a Forest Service trail adoption agreement in place for Grizzly Lake, Pomeroy Lake, Hancock Lake, Hancock Pass and Tincup Pass, with other adoptions for trails pending. If Marcus is not working you can generally find him somewhere out on the trails around Buena Vista.
For individual use only, not to be shared.