Evansville Loop – Groomed Winter Trail – East Side Mining District
Trail Name: Evansville Loop
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 10,800’ – 11,400’
Activities: Motorized and non-motorized: Nordic ski, fat bike, snowshoe, snowmobile, snow bike
Equipment: Rent equipment in downtown Leadville
Why It’s a Gem
A favorite for skate skiers who want a challenge, this loop is great for anyone who’s a fan of steep uphills and downhills. Here, you’ll get a great day on the trail and more—a trip back in time as you loop through the heart of Leadville’s East Side Mining District. Even under winter snows, you’ll see mining structures peeking from the drifts. Check out the mining supports called cribbing, giant tailings piles, tall headframes, the two remaining roofs in the ghost town Stumptown, and more. Imagine how hardy the miners of the late 1800s must have been to survive winter in such a place.
Then as you crest Breece Hill, revel in the views of 14er Mt. of the Holy Cross to the northwest and the many 12ers and 13ers from west to north to east. Once you’re pumped on the vistas, it’s time to zoom down that hill, elated.
Directions to Trailhead
From Harrison Ave. in downtown Leadville, follow 7th Street (same as County Road 3) east about 3 miles. Where County Road 38 splits to the right (groomed and not driveable in winter), a wooden sign marks the former town of Evansville. Park here in the small turnaround or on the sides of the road. Please do not block County Road 38, so that snowmobiles and grooming machines can get through.
There is a small lot and room to park on the sides of the road.
From the parking area, head east on County Road 38 for a long, moderate climb through stands of evergreens.
As you come into a wide, open area, you’ll begin to see mining structures. Continue east, passing a groomed trail coming in from the right (38A) and another from the left (3B). You’ll pass a tall cone-shaped pile of mining tailings on your right. Then you’ll reach the third intersection, a four-way junction, and turn southeast (right) to stay on County Road 38.
A long sloping horseshoe will bring you to the top of Breece Hill, where you’ll head west (right) on County Road 1. After you re-enter the trees and start downhill, take a hard right on County Road 38A, which comes up at a sharp angle. Bomb downhill, then turn west (left) onto County Road 38 to close the loop and return to the moderate hill that leads down to the parking area.
Evansville, at the parking area, was one of several small communities in the area that sprang up close to the mines, so that the miners could walk to work. Far beneath the snow are stone foundations of some cabins. This community in Big Evans Gulch was abandoned in the 1930s, as the Great Depression arrived.
Pause at the four-way junction on County Road 38, and you’re surrounded by old mines. The Ollie Reed Mine lies 250′ west of the sign and produced everything from lead-silver-zinc ore to gold. Up the slope to the southwest of the sign are the Favorite, Little Ellen Incline, and Silent Friend mines. Lead-silver blankets were pulled from them from the late 1870s to the 1890s. The Silent Friend was an important source of oxidized zinc ores from 1910 until 1924.
As you proceed on the horseshoe of County Road 38, you’ll wind around a ghost town called Stumptown. Only two buildings are still standing; it used to have homes, saloons, a dance hall, and a one-room schoolhouse. Legend has it that Margaret Tobin Brown, also known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame, lived in Stumptown when she and soon-to-be-wealthy miner J.J. Brown were first married. While living here, she is said to have lost a fortune by hiding paper money too close to a stove, sending her dollars up in smoke.
Was this town, built to support the nearby mines, named for a Joseph Stumpf? Or because of the many stumps chopped off a couple feet above the ground, the remains of trees miners used in the mines and nearby buildings? History buffs are stumped.
On the left side of County Road 38A, you’ll pass remnants of a mine on the Eliza Claim. Near the bottom of the hill and just off the road are more mining structures, near where the now-blocked St. Louis Tunnel once came out of the hillside, bringing the riches of Leadville to light.