California Mountain as seen from Hanson Peak
California Mountain as seen from Cinnamon Pass Rd.California Mountain A is an unranked low 13er located north of Silverton in San Juan Mountains. The mountain is easily accessed from several 4WD roads: Road 19 from the ghost town of Animas Forks to California Gulch and also from road, which turns off from 19 and leads into Placer Gulch.
California Mountain combines well with its neighboring peaks, especially Hanson Peak
. I have hiked it the day prior Imogene Pass run
and was looking for a very short outing since I did not want to get tired. The views from its summit are great.
Do not confuse California Mountain with California Peak
(13,849') located in Sangre de Cristo Range.
Unranked: per Colorado rules the rise from the saddle has to be at least 300 feet, California Mountain rises only 280 feet from the saddle between Hanson and California.
Animas Forks ghost town
Mining structures along California Gulch Road
Follow directions from Silverton to Animas Forks Ghost Town. Animas Forks is one of the best Colorado ghost towns. The drive to Animas Forks is 12.1 miles and it is on 4WD road. The road is very popular with various off road vehicles. The road usually opens mid May and closes mid-October.
From Silverton take bear right onto Colorado 110 (SR 2). At 4.2 miles pass the townsite of Howardsville, and continue towards Eureka, about 8 miles. From here continue on more narrow and slightly rougher road towards Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass Roads, and also towards Animas Forks. The turn off for Animas Forks is well marked.
California Gulch Trail - Drive northwest of Animas Forks on the dirt road for 4.2 miles and this will bring you to the California Pass. California Pass sits at 12,930 feet. For accessing California Mountain, it is best to stop about 0.5 mile below the California Pass. Traveling along California Gulch entirely above timber line, the trail is relatively easy , with numerous mine remains and open mine portals. The road ascends to California Pass from which there is a spectacular 180 degree view. From the pass, you look down onto Lake Como and Poughkeepsie Gulch, the road back to Animas Forks, and across to Hurricane Pass and Hurricane Peak.
Placer Gulch Trail
- start as the previous description for California Gulch, from Animas Gulch drive northwest and eventually you will see a turn off for Placer Gulch. There are many interesting mining buildings along the road. The concrete foundation of Gold Prince boarding house is only 1.6 miles from the turn off from California Gulch Rd.
Saddle between California Mountain and Hanson Peak is 12,940'
As any mountains there are many routes up it. I chose to ascend from California Gulch Rd since I spent the night there in the car. I drove about 0.5 mile down from the California Pass and chose the easiest path up the scree slopes to reach the saddle between California Mountain and Hanson Peak (much close to California Mountain). The slopes stayed at class 2, it was very loose at places.
Another and probably better approach would be from Placer Gulch - the slopes appeared more gentle and grassy.
Once reaching the saddle, the ridge walking was easy - there was even a faint trail there. The summit was decorated with a small summit cairn and glass register. There were not many entries up there.