U. S. Basin
Difficulty Moderate
Length of hike 5.2 mi. RT
Starting Elevation 11560 ft.
Top Elevation 12804 ft.
Type of Vehicle Regular or 4WD
Distance to Trailhead 23.8 miles
GPS track download U. S. Basin Track
Hiking time up 1:50 hours
Hiking time down 2:30 hours

Directions to Trailhead
From the Traffic light in Ridgway, drive 22.7 miles south on Highway 550 past Ironton and over Red Mountain Pass. Just after the summit, Cty. Rd. 14 leaves the highway on the left. Follow this road for 1 mile, then turn off to the left and park after driving another 0.1 mile.





The U. S. Basin is a favorite playground for backcountry skiers. Looking at the basin after you gain some elevation, it becomes obvious that the lack of cliffs and the gentle slopes make this a fine place for skiing. There’s even a hut, the Mountain Belle, ideally located at the bottom of the basin. A bit below the Mountain Belle, the Saint Paul Lodge invites skiers to stay in a refurbished mining cabin that dates back to the heydays of mining in the Red Mountain district.


The hike leads you on a round trip around the basin with great views into Mineral and Porphyry basins to the west and into Cement Creek and Silverton to the east. With the exception of the return on County Road 14, this hike follows animal tracks on trail-less meadows and, along the ridge from McMillan Peak towards Ohio Peak, one feels like being on top of the world. Wildflowers cover the entire basin, but if you get there after the sheep have visited, you will find only what the sheep left behind (dropped). John Muir famously called them “hoofed locusts”.


If you happen to be visiting the basin while the sheep are hanging out in the area, you may get inspected by a Great Pyrenees or Maremmano sheep dog guarding his flock. He may bark at you, but after having made his point will usually move on. Occasionally, one of those beautiful and intelligent dogs may even come close enough to get petted. Just don’t give them the impression that you are threatening their flock!


To extend the loop you can continue on the ridge to Ohio Peak and return from there to the County Road. The GPS track swings around to the east after visiting U.S. Basin pass, which must have been a major intersection during the mining days, and continues at about the same elevation towards the road. You can still spot some of the leftover building material from a shelter at the pass.