(EASY - MODERATE)
|Highest Elevation:||12320 feet|
|Duration:||About 2 hours|
|Shape of Trail:||Straight Through|
|Best Direction to Travel:||North|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Keystone|
|Official Road Name:||FS 275|
|Management Agency:||White River National Forest, Dillon Ranger District|
First, yes, it is Saints John, not Saint Johns. Keep reading to learn why. This 4WD trail runs along high alpine ridge lines for several miles with spectacular 360 degree views. And lest you get bored, there are a couple of white-knuckle hill climbs to keep things interesting. The north end of the trail drops down into the forest below making its way into the tiny town of Montezuma. In 1863, John Coley made the first silver strike in Colorado. He founded the boom town of Coleyville. However, in 1867, a group of wealthy Free Masons bought up much of the area claims, renaming the town Saints John for the two patron saints of the Free Masons: Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. Thus Saints (plural) John. The current 4WD trail follows the route once taken by ox or mule driven ore carts hauling the mined ore over the Continental Divide and down the Swan River Valley to the mills and rails in Breckenridge. The mines of Saints John produced silver until the 1950s. Now, feel free to correct everyone you meet who will probably call this Saint Johns. (Full disclosure: The author was one of those people until 2016.)
Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.Read more about our rating system
North Fork Swan River, FS 356, continues straight (west). Turn right (north) to continue on FS 275. The next two miles of trail highlight the problem of driving on the tundra. As seen in the satellite image, there are many places where folks have driven up on the grass to avoid rocky patches. If the the trail is too rocky for you, maybe you shouldn't be here. As the trail widens and the damage increases, so does the likelihood that the Forest Service will close this trail and we'll all pay the price for a few boneheads who can't stay the trail!
This is the first, and smaller, of the two hill climbs. This climb is not difficult, but does have a rocky, blind summit that can be unnerving (See 1:20 in the video above). The trail makes a sharp right, but even if you go straight for a few yards, you'll be fine. The summit offers great views of Breckenridge Ski Resort to the west, Deer Creek to the east, the preceding trail to the south and the next, longer, and more difficult hill climb to the north.
At the base of the big hill climb, FS 275.1C forks to the right (northeast). This spur is an entertaining, very off camber, but easy out-and-back. The hill climb ahead is long, lose, and rocky. There is a small ledge near the bottom that may require a couple of attempts for stock trucks or inexperienced drivers (See 2:13 in the video above). After that, there are no remarkable obstacles, just more hill. The summit is a bit anticlimactic, but has a nice wide area to wait for your whole party to catch up and take in the views.
A small shaft hut sits just off the trail and some larger ruins are just below to the right. These are all that remains of the General Teller Mine. While this site makes a great photo op, keep in mind that, as this is a shaft hut, it sits above a collapsed mine shaft! DO NOT enter the hut!! This historic site is in a dangerous state of decay. Never enter or climb on historic ruins. It could damage the site, or worse, damage you!
This short (barely a half mile) out-and-back spur goes to the summit of Glacier Mountain to the right (northeast). Here, you'll find great views, but not much else. About 300 yards ahead, another right turn leads to the same trail.
These switchbacks quickly descend into the forest below. The second switch back (pictured) is the tightest and steepest. The last switch back is the rockiest, but still passable by a stock truck.
Just below the switchbacks the trail passes between the collapsed adit of the Wild Irishman Mine and its tailings pile. Remember, these areas can be unstable. Use caution if you chose to explore.
The unmarked fork to the left (west) is short and not very interesting. Stay right (northeast) on FS 275.
The Forest Service may keep this gate closed during Spring runoff, but most likely it will be open by early June. Just because this gate is open does not mean that the entire trail is passable. Snow lingers on the high ridges as late as mid July.
The area around Saints John is private land. No camping is permitted. Please respect the land owners who graciously allow us to pass through their property. The ruins of the large mill are strictly off limits. The area is "under reclamation." Please enjoy this historic site from a distance.
To the left (west), across a long water crossing, is the Hunkidori Mine 4WD trail.
The unmarked trail to the right (south) dead ends quickly at some mine ruins.
The trail ends in the tiny town of Montezuma. Turn right (south) on Montezuma Rd (FS 5) to get to Deer Creek, Webster Pass, and Radical Hill. A couple of streets to the left (north), is the road to Santa Fe Peak. About a mile north on Montezuma Road is the trailhead for Peru Creek. It's just under five miles down the valley to Keystone and US 6.
Trailhead Coordinates: 39.520867, -105.868970