Ruby Mountain, whether it was named for its coloration or for what miners found or hoped to find around it, is a striking peak. Like so many other mountains in the mineral-rich areas of Colorado’s ranges, Ruby is streaked with intense hues, most notably red, though yellows and oranges and darker colors mark it as well.
Located above spectacular Horseshoe Basin in Colorado’s Front Range, Ruby Mountain is directly connected to the famous and popular (many would say too popular) Grays Peak by a rugged ridge, but you will not find anything close to the Grays crowds on Ruby. In fact, you probably will not find anyone else on the mountain at all. No trails climb it, and most visitors to the area are off-road driving enthusiasts, explorers of mining ruins, hikers heading for well-known destinations (Argentine Pass, Grays Peak, Mount Edwards), or just plain sightseers.
Those who climb Ruby Mountain will have incomparable views of the surrounding area, including very private, very quiet views of Grays Peak towering to the north. What’s more, they can choose from several options for climbing the mountain, ranging from Class 2 on steep talus to Class 4 up tight gullies and precarious rock.
After I climbed Ruby, I left feeling that it was hands-down one of the top mountaineering experiences I have had in Colorado, and although I am not a state native and lack the extensive knowledge of the state that some other SP members do, I have climbed peaks, including some challenging and/or obscure ones, in all the state’s major alpine ranges. It is rare that I climb a mountain and feel much desire to climb that same one again. Ruby Mountain is one I would gladly revisit-- for me, it’s all about the beauty of the mountain and the surroundings, the variety of routes, and the solitude amidst a range that can often seem to provide very little.
Ruby Mountain is ranked #419 among Colorado's peaks.
Ghost Towns and Mine Relics
A visit to the area around Ruby Mountain is also a tour through the region's mining history. People who enjoy ghost towns and old mining ruins will find many fascinating sites throughout Horseshoe Basin, and they provide nice detours along the way out after a hike or climb to the high peaks ringing the upper basin. Numerous sites are easily accessible via passenger cars, but the most dramatic ones, those stained with age and with towering peaks looming behind them, will require 4WD or some walking to reach. There are some interesting ruins in the vicinity of the upper parking area described in the Getting There section.
Gold and silver were the principal ores sought during the mining days. The ores mined along Peru Creek were transported to Georgetown, on the eastern side of the Continental Divide, via a road over Argentine Pass and connecting to the now-defunct town of Waldorf (completed in 1871). The terrain was too steep and unstable to make the road reliably safe, so it was eventually abandoned. Now, all that remains of the road west of the Divide is the trail to Argentine Pass, but you can still drive up the east side from Waldorf on a rocky, steep 4WD road. Although the boom eventually went bust, one can still find precious metals and gems here. My wife found some silver-streaked rock up at Argentine Pass, and I found amethyst on the summit of nearby McClellan Mountain. But don't go out expecting to find a fortune.
To enjoy all that’s great about Ruby Mountain but minimize the approach, you will need a 4WD vehicle. If, though, that is not an option, you can still get close enough to the peak to make it worth doing.
From U.S. 6 at the eastern end of Keystone, take the signed road to Montezuma. This road is easy to find if one is traveling eastbound, but there is no direct access to it for westbound travelers, who will have to watch for the road and then make a U-turn to get to it.
At 4.3 miles from U.S. 6, look for a parking area on the left. Beside it, a dirt road heads east. This is the Peru Creek Road, and it is passable to passenger cars for approximately 5 miles, after which the road becomes markedly steeper and rougher, soon requiring high clearance and 4WD if one is to continue on. The Peru Creek Road becomes a very scenic drive after about 3 miles, passing many relics of the area’s mining heyday as it climbs through an open, verdant alpine basin, through which runs a chalk-white stream colored by calcium carried by the water. Peru Creek and some of its tributaries often strongly resemble the glacial streams that one finds in the Canadian Rockies.
There is a good-sized parking area on the left side of the road at 4.7 miles (11,100’), and this is a good spot to park a passenger car (starting from here and following the route described on this page will add about 3 miles RT and over 1000’ to your climb). There is a gate (open in the summer) at 4.8 miles, and at 5 miles is the trailhead for Argentine Pass (11,300’-- the TH, not the pass), which also has some parking and is about as far up the road as one should go in a passenger car.
But if you have 4WD and can use it, you can continue on at least 1.2 more miles, where the road forks. Take the left fork (the right climbs steeply to some more mine ruins and is used by hikers heading for Grays Peak) for another tenth of a mile to a small de facto parking area by a willow-encircled pond and just before a crossing of a narrow stream. The elevation here is approximately 12,100’. The road continues beyond this point, leading about another half a mile to a 12,200’ lake (and past that to more mine ruins) at the base of Ruby Mountain’s northern end, but following the road further requires a sketchy water crossing. The road crosses just above the outlet of the pond, which is rocky and shallow enough in late summer, but the outlet drops sharply into a boggy spot, and one slip of the tires or mistake in wheel placement could mean you are mired. It’s easier, then, to park at the 6.1-mile mark and finish the approach from there.
A nice thing about Ruby is that it has several interesting ways up it. There are currently two route pages attached (there used to be a third), and a study of the mountain suggests more could be added. Following is an overview of each attached route plus the removed one. All routes can be done as day climbs; with 4wd, you can do some of them in just a few hours.
East Ridge-- Class 2-4 depending on exact route.
Notch Route-- Via the notch separating Ruby from Grays Peak. Class 2, and also accessed from the east side.
Via Cooper Mountain (removed)-- A secluded Class 2 route that approaches from the west side of the mountain.
Red Tape, Camping, LinksThere is no red tape concerning fees or permits, but do respect private property in the area.
There are no developed campgrounds along the Peru Creek Road, but there are numerous opportunities for dispersed roadside camping.
Contact White River National Forest for more information, including gate openings/closures for the Peru Creek Road. Phone number: 970-945-2521.