Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Access: From Ouray take U.S. 550 two miles south. Trail parking is on the east side of U.S. 550
immediately south of the tunnel.
Restrictions: #241 – Hiker only; #241.1A and #242 are open to hiker and horse
Length: #241 is 3.5miles
#241.1A is 2.3miles
Elevation 8,440 feet
Latitude 38.0029, Longitude – 107.6616
NAD 83 Datum
Use caution when crossing Hwy 550
to access the trailhead.
#242 is 2.6miles
Elevation: #241 - 11,100’ #241.1A - 12,350’
#241 Ends at the junction near Yellow
Jacket Mine. #241.1 A and #242 end at
Bear Creek trail is recognized as a National Recreation Trail because
of its particularly unique and spectacular nature. The trail is steep
and narrow with many switchbacks at the beginning. Travel time to
the Yellow Jacket Mine is about a 4 to 5 hour hike. Distance to the
mine is approximately 3.5 miles.
For about 1/2 of the trail's length there are many ledges and cliffs.
The first section of the trail crosses a large talus field with unstable
rock. Just after the switchbacks, the trail narrows with a sheer drop
off. Hikers with a fear of heights may opt to turn around here. Travel
off the trail is not advised and hikers should be cautious of falling
rock. Hiking with dogs is not recommended. Camping sites are very
limited. The first suitable location is within a mile of the Yellow
The first 3.5 miles of the Bear Creek Trail from U.S. Highway 550 to the Yellow Jacket mine are included in the
National Recreation Trail System. It is only a part of a system of trails in this area. At the Yellow Jacket mine,
the trail forks. The south fork (#242) travels southeast to Engineer Mountain Pass. The north fork (#241.1A)
ties into the Horsethief Trail on American Flats. The Bear Creek trail was constructed in the late 1800's for
miner's access to claims along Bear Creek and as an alternate route over Engineer Mountain to avoid paying
toll on the Million Dollar Highway. When originally constructed, it was a substantial, well-built route hewn
out of rock ledges and supported by log and rock cribbing secured to the rocks with drill ore, rails and iron
pine. Buildings, equipment shafts and adits still remain as evidence of the trails historic past.
A wide variety of geological structures can be seen along the trail s. The lower portion of the trail switches
back through quartzite and slate of the Uncompahgre formation. This formation is exposed only in this area
south of Ouray and is the oldest Precambrian formation in Colorado that displays ripple marks and striations
of graded bedding, displaying its sedimentary origins. The trail climbs into the San Juan formation composed
of volcanic tuff. Here the rock is intersected by veins containing pyrite, with rich deposits of silver, lead and
zinc sulfides. Higher along the trail, above timberline, the rock changes into the Silverton volcanic series. Its
glaciated valley characterizes this section. A large rock glacier can be seen on the north-facing slope.
Vegetation varies widely dependent upon the elevation. White fir, Douglas fir, gambel oak, and aspen typify
the lower section. Engelmann spruce, sub-alpine fir and aspen grow along the central section of the trail.
Still higher, the trees give way to grasses, sedges and forbs typical of alpine tundra. The principal big game
animals in the area include elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. Mountain lions are occasionally seen. Other
wildlife includes marmots, pikas, grouse, and ptarmigan.
Trail alignment follows the original route and design. Average tread width is 24 inches. The tread surface
varies for solid rock to slate talus. Deterioration has occurred in some of the original cribbing and pinning.
New Supports have been added, replacing portions where hazardous. Consistent grades, high elevation,
cliffs, and rock types make the trail above average in difficulty for hikers not oriented to the types of trails in
the Ouray area. With current improvements, the trail can be used for day trips or longer trips to the Grizzly
Bear and Yellow Jacket mines. Reconstruction and new development are planned for connecting trails to
Engineer Mountain and along the Horsethief trail to form a loop system.
Bear Creek, #241 and #241.1A
Yellow Jacket Mine
Miles from trailhead
Bear Creek, #241 and #242
Yellow Jacket Mine
Miles from trailhead
This product is reproduced from geospatial information prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. GIS d ata and product
accuracy may vary. They may be: developed from sources of differing accuracy, accurate only at certain scales, bas ed on modeling or
interpretation, incomplete while being created or revised, etc. Using GIS products for purposes other than those for which t hey were created,
may yield inaccurate or misleading results. The Forest Service reserves the right to correct, update, modify, or replace, GIS products based on
new inventories, new or revised information, and if necessary in conjunction with other federal, state or local public agenci es or the public in
general as required by policy or regulation. Previous recipients of the products may not be notified unless required by policy or regulation. For
more information, contact Ouray District Office (970) 240-5300.
12/31/2012 – D.Armlovich