Hike of the Week: Midline Loop near Leadville features Colorado history
September 11, 2018
Trail name: Midline Loop.
Mileage: 5.5 miles.
Subjective rating: Easy. This simple-to-follow balloon (loop with a tail) stays on a railroad grade for most of the trail, only ascending a total of 400 feet in elevation.
What to expect: The Midline Loop trailhead is a longer drive from Vail than our hiking programs usually do, but we've heard it is well worth the drive. The trail begins off Hagerman Pass Road, just outside the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area near Leadville.
The first parking area you may see is located near the terminus of the Carlton Tunnel (previously the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel), and the parking area for the Midline Loop Trail is roughly a half mile farther up Hagerman Pass Road.
The trail follows the Colorado Midland railroad bed that was at one point the main line into Basalt, Aspen and the greater Fryingpan watershed. The trail now circumvents what would have been enormous trestles, gently bringing the locomotives down thousands of feet of elevation and passes by in Hagerman Tunnel. At close to 11,500 ft., this was once the highest active tunnel in the nation. The trail also passes by Douglass City, a predominantly Italian migrant camp that once housed the workers who built the railroad as well as the infrastructure the rails brought with it.
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Keep it turquoise — this area just outside Leadville boasts both the Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake recreation areas that bring thousands of visitors to the area.
Do your part when hiking and nature calls by making sure you are using a Rocky Mountain "facil-a-tree" that is at least 200 feet from water, trails or campsites. Pack out solid waste, both human and canine, and leave the area cleaner than you found it.
Peter Suneson manages the backcountry hiking and snowshoeing programs at Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org.