Midland Trail

  

This is a moderately easy loop in the Hagerman Pass Area that is 5.5 miles round-trip. The Colorado / Midland Trail is full of glimpses of perhaps some of the greatest feats in railroad history. If you take time to find the remains of the trestles, snow sheds, cuts through solid rock, and, of course, tunnels, you may find yourself lost in another world.

If you begin your journey at the parking area 3 miles west on Hagerman Pass Road (the Windsor Lake Trailhead), the first tunnel you come to is the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel, which was completed in 1893. It is at an elevation of 10,953 feet and is over 9,393 feet in length. This tunnel was built to replace the Hagerman Tunnel that was too high in elevation and cost too much to maintain. The Busk-Ivanhoe was converted to auto traffic in 1922 after the railroad abandoned it. It was then called the Carlton Tunnel and remained open to automobile traffic until 1943. Today it is part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas water diversion project, which brings water from Colorado's Wester Slope to the front range.

The next important railroad feat you will find was once the Hagerman trestle, located due west of the Carlton Tunnel. This trestle was 1,100 feet in length and 84 feet high. To the northeast of the trestle is a road that will take you to Douglas City, home of the Italian railroad workers who built this part of the Midland. This city once boasted eight drinking establishments and a dance hall full of "jaded women." It is now one of the more spectacular wildflower areas in this part of the Sawatch Range.

To continue to the Hagerman tunnel from this point, you have two options: Either continue up the road past Opal Lake, where a trail takes you to the railroad grade and over the Hagerman Tunnel; or backtrack down to the railroad grade just below Douglas City and take Rogers Spur. Rogers Spur was originally part of an earlier survey, which brought the railroad grade further east and involved an additional tunnel. The Rogers Tunnel was abandoned before its completion. From Rogers Spur, the grade continues to the second trestle and another deep cut to the beautiful Hagerman Lake. Beyond the lake, there is evidence of 13 snowsheds that covered the tracks. From here, it is only a short distance to the portal of the Hagerman Tunnel. Remember, the tunnel is not safe to enter! The trail will take you back through Douglas City to the parking area.

The Midland Railroad trail is a Suggested Day Hike, and has a unique handout.

At a Glance

Usage: Medium
Best Season: Summer, Fall
Restrictions: Be sure to follow posted Wilderness guidelines, as portions of this trail enter Mount Massive Wilderness Area.
Closest Towns: Leadville, CO
Operated By: San Isabel National Forest

General Information

Directions:

From Leadville, follow signs to Turquoise Lake Recreation Area, travel west on the southern loop around the lake (Lake County Rd 9), and turn left on County Rd 4. Take the Hagerman Pass Road (Forest Service Road 105) 3.75 miles to the parking area. The last 1/4 mile is passable by high clearance vehicle only. The trail begins near an interpretive sign on the west side of the road.


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