The hiking around Georgetown has always been one of the town’s greatest draws. This is due in large part to the mountains that encapsulate the area and the beauty they possess. Of all the trails to choose from, the Silverdale Trailhead is a topmost favorite. A point along the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway and home to a historic mining ghost town, this great hiking trail is located just above Georgetown, Colorado high up in the Rocky Mountains. It’s gorgeous landscape and interesting mining history is everything you want from a great hike all in one place. Lace-up your hiking boots and come see for yourself!
Guanella Pass Scenic Byway
To reach the Silverdale Trailhead, take the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway by car. A 22 mile stretch of paved highway, Guanella Pass Road connects Grant, Colorado to Georgetown, Colorado. If you travel all the way up to the summit of Guanella Pass Road, you can enjoy the views of Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans. Both peaks are towering Colorado 14ers. This means they are 14,000 feet or higher in elevation, just two of the fifty-eight 14er peaks in Colorado. Mount Bierstadt is accessible from Guanella Pass Summit, which sits at 14,060 feet exactly. But that is a hike for another day!
Guanella Pass Scenic Byway is west of Denver, Colorado, and just south of Georgetown. Although all 22 miles of Guanella Pass Road is asphalt, it is no longer maintained in the winter. Closure of the summit takes place around the first heavy snow of the winter and does not reopen until around Memorial Day Weekend. That doesn’t stop snowshoeing and backcountry skiers from enjoying the area, though! The Clear Creek side of the summit is where you’ll find the Silverdale Trailhead.
Silverdale Interpretive Site Parking Lot
Just above and south of Georgetown lies the Silverdale Interpretive Site, the first pull off on Guanella Pass Scenic Byway from Georgetown. It’s located just past the first reservoir and on the east side of the road. It’s well marked with a sign, so don’t worry about missing it! Luckily, the Silverdale Interpretive Site has a parking lot large enough for plenty of cars to park. The parking lot is rarely full, so this is a brilliant spot for those looking to avoid the crowds!
At the Silverdale Trailhead, you’ll find interpretive signs and a map that displays the trails you can choose from; Sporting Times, Rutherford, Chicago Road, Anna, Railbed, and Clear Branch. These trails are lightly trafficked out and back. Rutherford, Sporting Times, Chicago Road, and Anna trails are all to the far left of the parking lot towards Georgetown, whereas Clear Branch and Railbed lead to the right side of the parking lot, towards the summit of Guanella Pass.
Rutherford and Sporting Times Trails
If you head north (or left) from the Silverdale Interpretive Site parking lot, you take a footbridge to cross the beautiful South Clear Creek. The trail then takes a left and lands you in a junction. This junction is the access point to all the trails and the beginning of Clear Branch and Sporting Time trails. The Sporting Times trail is very wide and easily accessible for all levels. If you take Sporting Times long enough, it forks and a new trail emerges; Rutherford Trail. Rutherford leads all the way back down into Georgetown, dropping off at the top of Third Street in the historical district of town.
If you don’t take Rutherford and want to continue on Sporting Times, you’ll gain some elevation and travel higher up the mountainside. It’s a moderate trail, best for energized hikers and snowshoeing because of the steep inclines that occur. Along both Sporting Times and Rutherford Trail, you will notice QR code signs. Scan these codes and check out what they have to say! They mark historical locations and contain interesting information about each site, making the hike even more enjoyable. Both Sporting Times and Rutherford sport lots of water features because they both run along South Clear Creek. The Sporting Times trail eventually veers off, whereas Rutherford is along the water its entire length.
Chicago Road and Anna Trails
Along Sporting Times and just past the junction where you started, you will find the trail sign marking Chicago Road. This is a steeper climb, which eventually turns into Anna Trail. All hiking maps and apps have Chicago Road and Anna Trail marked at a moderate level. These trails are great for those wanting to gain greater elevation, and those seeking fantastic mountain biking conditions. Anna Trail is one giant loop, meaning if you take it long enough, it will drop into Sporting Times, which will take you back to your car.
Clear Branch and Railbed Trails
As mentioned earlier, the junction after the footbridge gives you access to all of Silverdale Trailhead’s options. If you head to the right at this junction, you’ll be able to take the Clear Branch and Railbed Trails. Clear Branch follows the path of the power lines and goes through gorgeous aspen forests. If you take Clear Branch long enough, you’ll come across an abundance of cascading waterfalls and a rickety footbridge that crosses South Clear Creek again.
Clear Branch then loops back around, taking you back in the parking lot’s direction. Eventually, it turns into Railbed trail which appears to be the remnant of a railroad path. Take this trail long enough and it will pass the parking lot and take you to the left side of the mountain where the previously mentioned hiking trails all start. Don’t worry about getting lost! If you are on Railbed long enough, it loops back around, merging with Sporting Times, and takes you right back to the parking lot. What’s great about Railbed Trail is it loops around Colorado Central Mill, an abandoned location once used during mining operations!
Silverdale- A Historic Mining Ghost Town
Georgetown settled in 1859 after they discovered gold in the area, but the town is mostly known for its silver. So much so, in the late 1800s, the town competed with Central City for the title of Colorado’s most important mining center. In its heyday, Georgetown’s mining would produce over one million dollars’ worth of precious metals annually, some years coming close to the two million marks. Eventually, other Colorado mining towns eclipsed Georgetown, but it will always be known as one of the first booming mining towns in all the West.
One of Georgetown’s first mining camps, now abandoned, is accessible from the Railbed Trail. Colorado Central Mill, a protected historic district, is the mining ghost town of Silverdale. During their operation, Silverdale mines were owned and operated by Georgetown inventors. Although roads, rusted iron, and the concrete structure of Colorado Central Mill are all that remain, it’s a historical must visit. Be very careful in this area! It is a protected sight, so discarded metal is scattered throughout the area. This includes nails, scrap sheets of metal, glass, and hard to notice material that you’ll want to avoid stepping on. But it’s also what makes this area so special. It’s as if the miners during that time dropped everything and never returned to the location.
Great Hike Near Georgetown, Colorado
The Town of Georgetown, Colorado
Now that you understand the area, you’re probably wondering what makes it so great aside from the old mining features? Not only is Silverdale Trailhead a fantastic place to witness the changing of the aspen leaves in the fall, but the wildflowers in the area are overwhelming. The wide paths also provide a pleasant width for hiking with a partner. Most of the trails are considered easy, making it a great place for hikers of all skill levels, including children and those not adjusted to the high altitude.
It’s a beautiful, isolated location with lots of South Clear Creek water features. Though most commonly used for hiking, walking, and running, this is the perfect place for birdwatching and mountain biking too. With plenty of trees and incredible views, there are some stellar places to hang up some hammocks and enjoy the Rocky Mountain air. Visit Silverdale Trailhead during your next Colorado adventure and be sure to check out the town of Georgetown before or after!