Paradise North (Ruby Lake)
Difficulty Easy
Length of hike 3.2 mi. RT
Starting Elevation 11320 ft.
Top Elevation 12240 ft.
Type of Vehicle Regular
Distance to Trailhead 31.2 miles
GPS track download Paradise North Track
Hiking time up 1:30 hours
Hiking time down 1:00 hours

Directions to Trailhead
From the Traffic light in Ridgway, drive 28 miles south on Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass. Take the Ophir Pass road and drive 3.2 miles to the place where the road takes a sharp turn to the left. Find a parking spot at the intersection with the road going east.

 

pnorth
pne

 

Highlights

Two unnamed lakes feed the Middle Fork of Mineral Creek, with Crystal Lake assisting. The nameless lake north of the Ophir Pass Road, unofficially called Ruby Lake, is about three times the size of the one on the south side (Paradise Basin hike). Obvious signs of previous mining activity are visible everywhere, but these days most visitors tend to stay on the Ophir road, and anyone venturing further out finds solitude among wildflower meadows. Late bloomers and mushrooms appear in early fall and the warning whistles of the resident marmots greet the visitor to the basin where the lake is located. A rare wooden post, a leftover from a staked mining claim, is standing guard at the bottom of the basin, next to the creek tumbling down from Ruby Lake.

 

The road branching off from the Ophir Pass road and leading to the Freda mine is in good shape and drivable, but parking the car at the intersection and hiking is far more enjoyable. After walking along the road for about half a mile, be careful to locate the mule trail splitting off to the left. There are other tracks going parallel to the main trail, but those are a bit more difficult to walk on. As always, keep in mind that the error margin of the GPS system can be tens of feet, and the trail could well be uphill from your position without even being visible.

 

Before the climb to the lake begins, gently sloping meadows on the east side of the creek invite further exploration. Once you arrive at the lake, Columbine Lake is tantalizingly close just across the ridge to the northwest. Reaching Columbine Lake by the standard trail is very strenuous, so struggling up the scree slope might be tempting for experienced climbers. On the way back a detour, leading past the OPUS hut, is feasible by continuing south where the trail switches back into a northeasterly direction. Continue south and then towards the west, following the contour on an animal track and then connect back to the Ophir Pass road for a return to the car.