Corkscrew Turntable
Difficulty Moderate
Length of hike 3 mi.
Starting Elevation 11000 ft.
Top Elevation 10120 ft.
Type of Vehicle Regular
Distance to Trailhead 22.8 miles
GPS track download Corkscrew Turntable Track
Hiking time up 2:50 hours
Hiking time down 1:30 hours

Directions to Trailhead
From the Traffic light in Ridgway, drive 22.8 miles south on Highway 550 past Ironton. Just before the summit of Red Mountain Pass, a meadow opens up on the left. Park in a convenient spot along the highway and look for Cty. Rd. 31 heading east.





This can be a hike, a snowshoe trip, or a cross country ski tour through spectacular scenery and past many historic sites. It follows the railroad grade of Otto Mears’ Silverton railway and leads to two of the most impressive structures dating back to the heydays of the mining era. A car shuttle lets you begin this trip at the top (junction of highway 550 and Cty. Rd. 31) with the exit below the Joker Boarding House, or you can return the same way. The grade is very gentle and makes for an easy cross country ski tour.


The shaft house of the Yankee Girl, the mine that started the mining boom when a volcanic pipe lined with silver and gold was discovered, is still standing thanks to the preservation efforts of local activists. A bit further down valley, the remains of the Corkscrew turntable testify to the entrepreneurial spirit of Otto Mears and the genius of railroad designer Charles Gibbs. Corkscrew Gulch presented a serious obstacle to bringing the railroad from the Guston mining area down into Ironton. The steep grades and wobbly tracks required the engine to always be placed at the front of the train, but the switchback at the gulch made this very cumbersome. The engine had to be decoupled, run down to Ironton and turned around, before it could proceed back down at the front of the train. Gibbs solved the problem by installing a turntable in the tail of the switchback. Thanks to the excellent history compiled by Mark L. Evans, you can find much more about the Silverton Railroad at this fine site.


Following a railroad grade makes for easy cross country skiing even if you decide to take the trip going uphill. On the south end, the track follows County Road 31 and connects with Highway 550, while the downhill end goes past the Joker boarding house and connects to the highway as well. This makes a car shuttle feasible.