Thousands struck with gold fever made their way into the area on the southwest side of Pikes Peak in the 1890s. Most of them walked or rode horses. Their goal was to reach the Cripple Creek & Victor Mining District, where newly found gold was bringing promises of easy-found wealth.
Today the remnants of that gold rush legacy live on, dotting the landscape, atop mountains, along valleys where city streets used to be filled with miners, wagons and mules going to and from the mines. The great Independence Mine founded by Winfield Scott Stratton, the iron marvel of the Theresa, the giant fire-warped Vindicator and the grand Gold Coin hoist are all sites to be noted in the modern gold camp.
Once again attention is being turned toward walking to the mines, or at least through the mining district, this time for purposes the 1890's miners hardly had time for - mining education, historic interpretation, recreation and just plain fun. The Southern Teller County Focus Group and the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company teamed up to create a series of trails that lead you through the wealth of gold mining that made Victor and Cripple Creek famous.
The trails are open to foot, horse and bicycle traffic in summer and skiing and snowshoeing in winter. No motorized traffic is allowed.
Visitors to all trails must remember they are crossing private land and must stay on the trails for their safety. The trails are through mountain terrain at elevations of 9,500 to 10,500 feet above sea level. Dress appropriately for mountain weather and bring a hat, sunscreen and a jacket in case of a shower.
Access to the Theresa, Vindicator and Independence mines are handicap accessible; the trails are open year-round; cross country skiing and snowshoeing are best in spring. There are no services at the trail; camping and overnight parking are not allowed.
Vindicator Valley Trail
This trail offers access to Vindicator Valley, the historic location of the town of Independence and several of the district's largest mines. Interpretive signs with historic photos of 1890's gold mines, information about railroads, gold rush towns, as well as current-day mining and reclamation are located along the trail. The 2-mile loop Vindicator Valley Trail has two trailheads: one across from Goldfield and one at the Vindicator Mine on Teller County Road 831.
Little Grouse Mountain Trail
A short climb up Little Grouse Mountain offers views of the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company valley fill operations as well as a 360-degree view of the mountains to the west and surrounding terrain. The trail begins at the parking area just west of Victor on the south side of the bridge over Arequa Gulch. At the trailhead is an historic mining equipment display. Brochures at the site describe the equipment, which was relocated from historic mines in the district.
Gold Camp Trail
Hike up or down the trail through Poverty Gulch where Bob Womack found gold in 1890; tour some of the most historic country in the district as you retrace the footsteps of 1890’s hardrock miners. The trailheads are just to the west of Hoosier Mine on County Rd. 83, and at the Cripple Creek District Museum. Learn about the famous Gold King Mine, the C.O.D. Mine & the Mollie Kathleen Mine. End your hike at the Cripple Creek District Museum where gold mining history is displayed at the head of historic Bennett Avenue. Brochures at the Hoosier Trailhead describe the equipment, which was relocated from historic mines in the District.
Battle Mountain Trail
The Battle Mountain Trail, designated in 2000 as a Millennium Trail, begins at Stratton’s Independence Mine just outside of Victor on the Range View Road. This 1-mile trail takes you past the famous Independence Mine, where Winfield Scott Stratton made millions at the turn of the century. Winding its way up a gentle grade, the trail traverses Battle Mountain below the Portland I and Ajax mines. Views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Victor are spectacular. At the Independence Mine a re-creation of the Cresson Ore Sorting House demonstrates an important process in 1890’s gold mining.
Independence Mill Site Trail & Stratton Outdoor Amphitheater
Visitors to the Victor can walk through time on a new trail through historic gold mining country. The trail and interpretive site at the Independence Mill Site.
The trail is a loop tour of the Independence Mill Site just above Victor off the American Eagles Road. The trailhead,is below the county road across from the Independence Mine and Battle Mtn. Trail. This trail makes it possible to access the Vindicator Valley and Battle Mtn. trails from the parking area.
Stratton¹s Independence Mill segment of the Battle Mountain trail system is an excellent way to see the foundations that are the remains of the gold recovery operations from the turn of the century. The foundations, until now off limits to the public, form the core of the trail which circles the mill site. One of the large water tanks has been converted to an outdoor amphitheater and is used for community events.
The site includes gigantic foundations including the remains of a water tank. Please do not climb on the foundations for your safety and the preservation of the structures for future generations. The mill site is privately owned by CC&V.
The trail is funded by the Southern Teller County Focus Group through donations made for its projects, with public access courtesy of the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company and other public and private owners.
Golden Circle Trail
The Golden Circle Trail begins at Teller County Road 1 across from the Battle Mountain Interpretive Site and at the Independence Mill Site on the American Eagles Road. This trail connects the Mill Site with the Vindicator Valley Trail. Following the original grade of the Golden Circle Railroad, the easy, gradual trail is about 1.25 miles between the Mill Site and the lower Vindicator Valley Trail.
Downtown Victor Trail & New Lawrence Trail
Interpretive signs along a historic trail in downtown Victor provide a tour of the City of Mines. These trails follow city streets and sidewalks past 1899 buildings and historic sites.
Brochures with trail maps are available at the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, at Victor City Hall Visitor Center. A downtown trail also leads from the museum at 3rd & Victor Avenue to the Independence Mill Site and Battle Mountain Trail.
New Trail Open of South 7th Street in Victor
An all-new trail from Victor's 7th St. to the Sunnyside Cemetery Road has opened for public use. The trail is about 3/4 of a mile long and follows the rights of ways in the 1890's town of Lawrence. No historic structures remain in this area but the streets and alleys of the old town continue to exist and are owned by the CC&V Gold Mining Company (CC&V), City of Victor and Teller County.
The Lawrence Trail begins at the south end of 7th Street in Victor, or on the Sunnyside Cemetery Road (watch for split rail fence). Parking is best in downtown Victor at the Alta Vista Visitor Center, where you can walk Victor Avenue to 7th St., then follow the street to the trailhead, which is on the east side marked with a large rock cairn and split rail fence. No parking is allowed along the narrow far south end of 7th Street as a courtesy to homeowners there. Parked vehicles unauthorized to be there will be towed.
No motorized vehicles are allowed on the Trails of Gold and users must read and obey all warning signs and trail directional signs. Violations and trespassing will result in permanent closure of the trail.
This trail will connect soon to the Sunnyside Trail, which will lead from the Sunnyside Cemetery Road to Little Grouse Trailhead. From there the trail will continue up Little Grouse Trail and/or via a new planned extension that will lead to Shelf Road south of Cripple Creek at the historic site of Mound City.
The trail is a project of the Southern Teller County Focus Group (STCFG) with rights of way permissions from CC&V, the City of Victor, and Teller County. The trail is partially funded by those who support the annual STCFG raffle and funds raised from the Gem and Mineral Show held each June. Kids from the Rocky Mountain Soccer Camp and pack burro racers from this past fall’s pack burro race helped define areas of the trail.
Skagway Reservoir east of Victor offers a gradual trail that gets more hilly. The trail follows the lake's edge. Take Phantom Canyon Road east of Victor to the first fork in the road and turn left; drive to the reservoir. The trail starts to the north of the parking area. Drive east of town and take the Phantom Canyon Road about one mile and turn left at the sign for Skagway.
Beaver Creek - Starting at the dam at Skagway Reservoir, the trail leads down the canyon. This trail is not for the occasional hiker as the return ascent is strenuous.