Part of the High Country trails system.
Cunningham Gulch (FS#502) Leaving the trailhead behind, the first half mile of the route rises through 700 feet of stunted high-alpine growth as the trail clambers towards treeline. Meeting with the Highland Mary Lakes connector, one last switchback brings you into the final patch of trees before a rolling tundra unveils unhindered mountain views off to the west, including Mount Rhonda, Kendall Peak, and Little Giant Peak. From here, the trail never again drops below treeline, and at about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the Cunningham Gulch trail ends at its intersection with the Continental Divide/Colorado trail.
History/Background: Like much of the San Juan Mountains, the area has a strong mining history. Perched high above Cunningham Gulch on Galena Mountain is the Old Hundred Boarding House, built in the first decade of the 20th century by Reinhard and Gustave Niegold, German prospectors of the Midland Mining Company. The musical brothers—Reinhard a pianist and Gustave a professional opera singer—eventually sold their interests to the Old Hundred Mining Company in 1904, which expanded the mining infrastructure in the area. The Old Hundred Mining Company built tramways and bunkhouses throughout Cunningham Gulch, but the area was never particularly productive, and mining ceased in 1908 at a loss. Neither mining nor oil drilling was ever productive in Cunningham Gulch, but the framework of structures remain to this day.
There are two “tiers” to the Cunningham Gulch: a lower, which includes a loop adjacent to the road for camper vehicles and campsites, and an upper, which includes the Highland Mary Lakes Trailhead. A four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle is required for the road to the upper tier, and the road here is rough. Two-wheel drive is not recommended for the lower portion.
Map & Directions
Map Coordinates: 37.777974, -107.568083
Where's the Trailhead?
dIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD
From 9th Street and Main Avenue in Durango, head west on 9th Street toward Camino Del Rio (Highway 550). Turn right onto Camino Del Rio (HWY 550) and continue north on Hwy 550 past Purgatory Resort toward Silverton. Continue through Silverton to CR 2 and follow to CR 4. The Cunningham Gulch road starts in Howardsville. Turn east on County Road 4 and follow the signs to the Old Hundred Mine tour by bearing left on County Road 4-A at its junction with County Road 4.
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