Mount Sheridan is located in the heart of the Mosquito Range of the Colorado Rockies, approximately 10 miles east of Leadville, Colorado. It is ranked 126th in the state and is 1.3 miles southwest of its neighbor fourteener, Mount Sherman. Mount Sheridan is not hard to miss as you climb up to the 13,140 saddle southwest of Mount Sherman. From the west, it’s the prominent pyramidal peak which greets you as you arrive in Iowa Gulch. It is usually climbed as an afterthought following an ascent of Mount Sherman. However, it is a fun climb all by itself, with great views and a huge summit cairn. Adding Sheridan to your itinerary makes for a nice day of peak bagging after climbing Mount Sherman and/or Gemini Peak to the north.
Special Note: I have the honor of recently adopting this page from long-time SP member Alan Ellis. From a base in the US state of Oklahma, Alan has contributed much to the content and community of SummitPost. I have enjoyed the honor of climbing with Alan and his wife Jackie, and am proud to assume responsibility for this page. Climb on, Okies!
The two trailheads are Iowa Gulch and Fourmile Creek. Iowa Gulch is a little shorter but is not as scenic as the Fourmile Creek approach. Iowa Gulch is filled with mines, telephone and power poles, and other man-made debris. Fourmile Creek is more scenic with an interesting ghost town to walk through.
From the west via Iowa Gulch:From the south of Leadville, Colorado - As you enter Leadville, on highway 24, the road makes a 90 degree turn to the left (north). Immediately after making this turn, make an immediate right (east) turn on Monroe street. From the north - Drive all the way through the downtown area south on highway 24 until reaching a 90 degree bend in the road to the right (west). Just before the bend is Monroe street to the left (east). Drive down Monroe (east) for one block to Toledo Street. Turn right (south) on Toledo which will turn into Lake County Road 2 after about 100 yards. Follow paved County Road 2 for approximately four miles until reaching a fork with a dirt road to the left. In the center of the fork is a large white sign which says “Mt. Sherman” and has an arrow which points left up the dirt road. The paved road will continue straight. Note that the Trails Illustrated map (Leadville/Fairplay) is inaccurate with the roads to this point and does not show the road forking. Follow the dirt road for about 2.5 miles to near the end of the road at 11,900 ft. The last half-mile of this road is a little rough, but it is easily passable to passenger cars. You will be above treeline at this point and Iowa Amphitheater will greet you with Mt. Sherman directly ahead, and Mt. Sheridan will be the pyramidal peak to the right of the amphitheater. The trailhead is marked with a short, but wide cairn near the road. Begin looking for the cairn on the right after the dirt road bends north towards the modern mine building. To get to the summit, see the "Routes" section at the left side bar of this page.
From the east via Fourmile Creek: From Fairplay - Drive south from the junction of CO 9 and U.S. 285 for one mile to Park County road 18. Drive west on County Road 18 for ten miles until reaching Leavick ghost town at 11,240 ft. 4WD vehicles can continue for an additional 2.5 miles. To get to the summit, see the "Routes" section at the left side bard of this page.
This area is rich in gold, silver, and zinc mining history. From around 1860 to the silver crash in 1893, both the east and west side of Mt. Sheridan hosted some of the most productive mining operations in Lake County, Colorado.
On the east side of Sheridan, the mining town of Leavick sprang up in 1881. Leavick was named for prospector, Felix Leavick, and in its heyday, boasted a population of more than 200. The largest mine in the Leavick area was the Hilltop Mine located on the southern slopes of Mt. Sherman. The Last Chance mine was located on the east slope of Sheridan. Other mines and shafts include the Dauntless Mine, Miller Shaft, Rob Roy Shaft, and Badger Boy Shaft. A mill in Leavick processed silver ore brought by an aerial tramway with 125 buckets at 400 pounds per bucket. After the silver crash in 1893, zinc was mined there until 1938. At one time, a railroad spur reached the town of Leavick due to the high volume of zinc being produced. Today, remnants of the town and mines are very evident. Several of the buildings in Leavick remain as well as several of the mine shafts. Visitors are reminded that the buildings are fragile and the mine shafts are dangerous. Here is an old photo of Leavick.
Earlier, in 1860, gold was discovered near the historic town of Oro City in California Gulch, west of Mt. Sheridan. Placer mining was the norm, where gold was panned or run through water-filled sluices. More than $8,000,000 in gold was mined from California Gulch during this time, but gold quickly ran out, and Oro City seemed doomed to history. By 1878, Oro City was all but abandoned and the town of Leadville was established. It was then; however, that the silver boom started when silver ore was discovered in the carbonate of lead in the black sand. Silver mining continued until the silver crash of 1893. There are dozens of mines and shafts around Oro City, and in Iowa and California Gulchs. As you drive up County Road 2 to the trailhead, Oro City is passed with several signs indicating the historic site.
Strong evidence of mining exists on both sides of Mt. Sheridan. Some of the evidence may appear to be unattractive and distracting from the wonderful views. However, realizing that the mining remnants are part of the rich history of the area will actually enhance your view of these mountains. Visitors must be wary of cables, mine shafts, fragile buildings, and other hazards. In addition, some of the items are historical artifacts and should not be disturbed for that reason. Climbers are invited to look into the history of the area and make yourself familiar with it to enhance your overall experience of Mt. Sheridan.
Mount Sheridan and Iowa Gulch trailhead are located in the Leadville Ranger District of the San Isabel/Pike National Forest. Fourmile Creek trailhead is located in the South Park Ranger District. No permits are needed to hike or climb. The Iowa Gulch trailhead, most of the approach, and the west side of Mt. Sheridan are on private property. Access is allowed without restriction; however, please respect the rights of the property owners. No camping is allowed in Iowa Gulch. On the east side, most of the area around Leavick ghost town is also on private property. Update 10-28-2004: There is a permanent road closure at 12,000 feet, well below the Dauntless Mine. There is a gate with posts on the left and right to prevent driving around it. Also, there is a sign that says, "No Motor Vehicles Beyond This Point." (Courtesy of Sisyphus).
When To Climb
As with most Colorado high peaks, June through September is considered the summer climbing season. However, Mt. Sheridan is also climbed in the dead of winter by experienced mountaineers. The gulch from Iowa Amphitheater is known for avalanches as well as the north slopes of Sheridan. Inexperienced winter climbers should use the Fourmile Creek approach if unsure of the conditions. Violent thunderstorms are a daily occurance in summer. Plan to be off the summit or ridges by early afternoon to avoid lightning danger. Start very early and allow 3-5 hours for climb and descent..
Backcountry camping is not allowed in Iowa Gulch. The Forest Service does not recommend camping near Fourmile Trailhead. Although there is some Forest Service land near Fourmile Trailhead, most of the area is private property and it would be difficult to determine whether you are on Forest Service land or not. Therefore, the Forest Service recommends camping at Fourmile Campground on County Road 18 approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead.
The entire approach and route are above treeline. In Iowa Gulch, the meadow at the beginning of the route can be muddy and boggy. In the gulch on the north side of Sheridan, beware of old cables and telegraph wires that cross the trail on the ground. From Fourmile creek in early season, a long easy snow slope must be climbed before reaching the saddle. On the mountain itself, the trail is a faint climbers trail consisting mostly of loose talus.