This route falls squarely into the “lot of bang for the buck” category. A relatively short distance outing with mild elevation gain, you’ll get to the high country fast and top out on two Colorado Thirteeners (one ranked Centennial and one unranked but high Thirteener). This route winds its way up the scenic Iowa Gulch into the Iowa Amphitheater, hemmed in by high mountains including Fourteener Mount Sherman as well as your goals for the day (Dyer Mountain and Gemini Peak). High country scenery is pretty much a constant along the entire route. You’ll also get to enjoy some mining history along the way thanks to the Sherman Mine (active late 60s through early 80s), including an old cabin and remnant equipment.
This route is entirely above timberline, so prepare properly for the season. In the summer, this will mean an early start to be back to your vehicle before 11:00 AM to avoid Monsoon season thunderstorms. In winter, this will mean outerwear sufficient to protect you from the elements, including wind blocking, insulation, face protection and goggles.
Roundtrip Distance: 4.25 miles
Net Elevation Gain: 2,100 (cumulative gain higher)
Area Map: Trails Illustrated #110 Leadville | Fairplay
YDS Class: 2
This route assumes driving to the upper trailhead at roughly 11,900 feet, accessible only outside of snow season. We managed to get an AWD Volvo to this trailhead, though I would suggest something with more clearance.
From Hwy 24 in Leadville…
• At the south edge of town, turn left (east) on Monroe Street.
• Turn right (south) on Lake County Road 2 (also signed as Toledo Street).
• Drive less than 4 miles to a fork in the road and turn left (dirt road).
• Follow this dirt road to a rustic parking area at about 11,900 feet.
• While a sturdy 4x4 could indeed continue further up the drainage, it’s time to get out of the truck and walk.
See the attached GPX for mapping and elevation profile.
• From the high dirt parking area, head generally northeast up-valley along a gravel road.
• The road heads north toward old mining ruins: a shack, some old tractors and other equipment.
• From the mining ruins, head northwesterly up the slope, which gets steep at times, toward the summit of Dyer Mountain. The route gets rockier as you gain elevation.
• After summiting Dyer Mountain, descend the summit and strike out generally east-southeast toward the saddle with Gemini Peak.
• Curve along the edge of the cirque making up the Iowa Gulch Amphitheater, following the ridge crest, ascending southeast toward the top of Gemini Peak.
• Note in dryer conditions, you should be able to make out some reasonable footpaths to follow.
• The summit of Gemini Peak is the cone on the left / northeast. The ascent of the summit is rocky and semi-steep but mostly stable.
• Descend the summit cone and retrace your steps along the edge of the cirque. Trying to descend too early will put you in steep, loose terrain.
• As you again near Dyer Mountain, keep your eyes open for a descent path on your left / south. This descent footpath curves down from the upper cirque down across the lower slopes of Dyer Mountain, eventually regaining your ascent path.
• Head toward the mining structures, and then follow the old road down back to your vehicle.
|Enjoying views to the west just below Dyer Mountain|
|Gemini Peak summit view|
• Map & compass
• Comfortable hiking boots or shoes appropriate to the season
• Outerwear appropriate to the season
• Snowshoes or skis for flotation in snow season
• Water and snacks
• A camera to save memories of the high country views
• First aid kit
• Other standard backcountry essentials
If you have any external links, information or trip reports you would like for me to add to this page, please let me know via Additions & Corrections. Thanks!