Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

 The Alpine Loop is designated a National Backcountry Byway.  It is a four-wheel-drive route that connects the mining town of Silverton to Lake City in Colorado.

As we were camped in Silverton, we rented a Jeep here at the RV Park and drove the loop right from AIROSMITH’S doorstep.  For us, it was an 8 hour day which included a quick lunch in Lake City.

Despite the rain in the forecast, we had a wonderful day driving through the Colorado high country.  While still a bit early, we enjoyed driving through fields of summer wildflowers.

We drove the loop clockwise from the mining ghost town of Animas Forks over Engineer Pass to Lake City, then returning to Silverton over Cinnamon Pass.


Our Transportation for the day.  Jeep Wrangler X rented in the office at our RV Park.  We find it’s better than using our 4X4 F150 for off road excursions.  Wear and tear to the rented vehicle and tires, versus what we pull AIROSMITH with.
The road begins to require four wheel drive, and high ground clearance at Eureka.
On the way to the ghost town of Animas Forks, we saw this hillside full of Columbine,  We were shocked because we had never seen them before in such profusion.  The flower literally covers this hillside.







The Columbine is Colorado’s State flower.  I believe that it is the prettiest of any state’s flower, but I confess a bias.  These were growing agains the wall of the campground office.












From the road, looking across to the Columbine profused field, I was able to zoom in on this bunch, just one of what must have been a thousand plants on the hillside.



While we were just days past the Summer Solstice, it is still spring in the Rockies.  The streams and rivers are flowing full with snowmelt, and we saw these small waterfalls everywhere throughout the day.




About twelve miles from Silverton you arrive at the old mining town of Animas Forks.  Most notable of the preserved structures is this Victorian home built in the early 1880’s.  It is dissimilar to most of the miner’s shacks more commonly seen.  This home, built by a miner from Pennsylvania was meant to show some class.






More common in Animas Forks were these small homes


Until the railroad was put in, the road to Animas Forks was a difficult one

Here at Animas Forks the road diverges.  You can take California Gulch toward Ouray, or continue to Engineer Pass

Approaching Engineer Pass, the views began to open up




These small snow fed ponds dominate the tundra above treeline 

From here, everything you see was once home to the Southern Ute.  They lived in these mountains and below, hunting and travelling to follow wherever the game would take them.  Once gold and silver was found here, something for which the Ute’s had no use, the land was slowly stolen by European settlers.  There home now is only a fraction of what it had been.

Wild Flowers of Engineer and Cinnamon Passes

Columbine

Paintbrush


Lupine


Purple Fringe


From Engineer Pass you began the slow decent to Lake City




Along the way to Lake City you pass the Ute and Ulay Mine and Mill, and what remains of the dam used to trap water to power the equipment




The road from Lake City to Cinnamon Pass is no less beautiful


Once climbing Cinnamon Pass you quickly descend back to Animas Fork, Eureka and finally home to Silverton



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