Summit County, Colorado, became a popular place when prospectors entered the area during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859. While the gold mines around Breckenridge are currently all shut down, some are open to tourist visits and many mining site remains can be found along hikes, like the Iowa Hill Trail. This moderate hike will give you a taste of the mining history in the area, while also giving you the beauty that draws everyone to the town of Breckenridge itself.
What Makes It Great
Iowa Hill is a historical mining exhibit and hiking trail, taking you back 145 years in time to the days when miners panned for gold. They later developed techniques using water cannons, called hydraulic giants, to wash the sides of gulches into sluice boxes to capture gold particles. This short trail winds up and around a Ponderosa-covered hill, filled with interpretive signs, old buildings, and mining relics.
Starting out at 9,600 feet in elevation, the trail winds its way up to 9,910 feet. With a mere 310 feet of elevation gain, this trail is a family-friendly classic. It's also an interpretive trail hike, leading to the Iowa Hill Hydraulic Placer Mine. This mine has been recognized as one of the best mining exhibits by the Mining History Association. Along the hike there are interpretive displays telling the stories of how miners panned for gold in the streams, as well as the evolution to hydraulics to extract gold from the hill sides.
While it is a short hike, it can be steep and you are at elevation, so proper footwear and all of the daily essentials of food, water and layers are encouraged. Overall, this is a great trail that tells a lot about mining history and like many trails in town it is very well-marked, so it's easy to follow.
Who is Going to Love It
Because of its shorter distance, this hike is a great addition to any day exploring Breckenridge. Have small children, or family members who don’t love hiking? The length of the hike and the historical markers that guide you along the way will ensure that there isn't a single “are we there yet?”
Gold mining history buffs will love this trail. There is old mining equipment, and plaques explaining the history as well. You can see where mountains were once washes away for gold and the hillsides have yet to recover.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Drive north for one mile on Hwy 9, left on Valley Brook Rd., right on Airport Rd. for .25 miles. The Iowa Hill Trailhead is on the left, directly north of the Public Works facilities. Limited parking available; drive up the dirt road to the second Iowa Hill trail sign.