Champion Mine  
Maps:        
USGS 7.5' Map: Leadville South, Mount Massive, Mount Champion
Statistics:
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 2 FR 110 10.00 9,600 to 11,600 ft. Creek Crossing - 2 2-4 hours
County: Lake
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Pike - San Isabel National Forest,
Leadville Ranger District
810 Front Street
Leadville, CO 80461
(719)486-0749
Summary: The Champion Mine road, or Halfmoon Creek road, is a graded road passing Forest Service campgrounds and trailheads. The last few miles are 4WD, ending at a gate at the Champion Mill site.
Attractions: Camping, Hiking, History
Seasonal
Closure:
Natural - Closed by heavy snow.
Best Time: June - Upper section may still be snowed in
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Watch for early snows
Trail Heads
Accessed:
Colorado Trail / Mount Elbert Trail
Camping: There are Forest Service campgrounds near the trail heads. There is also dispersed camping in spots, most locations are just as you enter the public lands.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to base camp to explore the Iron Mike Mine road, FR 110.J, and the hiking trails in the Mount Massive Wilderness.
Fall Colors: Very Good - There are stands of aspen all along Halfmoon Creek.
Navigation: From Leadville, CO. head south on Harrison Ave. toward West 8th Street for 0.5 miles. Continue onto Silver Drive for 0.3 miles. Continue onto US-24 E/Front Street and go 3.3 miles. Turn right onto Colorado Hwy 300 West and go 0.8 miles. Take the 2nd left onto County Rd 11/Halfmoon Rd and go 1.3 miles. Turn right to stay on County Rd 11/Halfmoon Rd. Continue to follow Halfmoon Rd for 2.1 miles where you will enter the public lands.

From Buena Vista, CO. head north on US-24 W toward West Sterling Ave for 30.2 miles. Turn left onto Colorado Hwy 300 West and go 0.8 miles. Take the 2nd left onto County Rd 11/Halfmoon Rd and go 1.3 miles. Turn right to stay on County Rd 11/Halfmoon Rd. Continue to follow Halfmoon Rd for 2.1 miles where you will enter the public lands.
History: The Champion Mine property was discovered in 1881, but was not developed until 1907 when the Mount Champion Mining Company purchased the property and started construction of a 50-ton per day mill and a 6,100 ft. long tramline. It is believed to be one of the first to pass over the crest of a ridge with an altitude of 13,600 feet at its highest point. Towers were constructed of wood, varying in height and design. These towers were built together to make a long curve for the cable. Electricity brought from Leadville powered the tram, equipped with forty-two buckets, each weighing about 600 pounds and capable of holding nine cubic feet of the precious ore. The high grade ore was shipped directly to the Smelters in Leadville.

Significant production started in 1912 and continued until 1918. The Champion Mine was dormant from 1919 to 1936 because the cost of shipping ore to Leadville Smelters proved to be unprofitable. From 1937 to 1940, the property was leased by Elmer Paustian who reopened the mine. Eight men were employed in the operation. In 1940, problems arose in the lease agreement, forcing Paustian to stop.

The Champion Mine and Mill are examples of Colorado mining history and it has been placed on the National Historic Register.

The recorded production from the Champion Mine during 1912-1940 was 27,032 oz gold, 12,731 oz silver, 30,690 lb copper, and 97,839 lb lead; there are no records of production after 1940.

The road from the Champion Mill to the Champion Mine, which is snow covered most of the year, had been graded in the mid 1980's.
To see Historic Photos click on the link.
Description:
After leaving Hwy 24 at Malta you will head west on State Hwy 300 for less than a mile before turning south on County Rd 11. You will pass through some small ranch properties. After a mile and a quarter you will take a slight righ to continue on County Rd 11. Once you wnter the public lands the road will continue to follow Halfmoon Creek through the forest. This is where most of the dispersed campsites are.

After approximately two miles you will come to the Halfmoon campgrounds on the left and right side of the road. At just under another mile you will come to the Emerald Lake picnic area. A half mile further will bring you to the Elbert Creek trail head and campground. The road will become a 4WD road beyond this point. Another 2.5 miles will bring you to an intersection where the Iron Mike Mine road, FR110.J, heads south. At this intersection continue ahead to stay on FR110.

The forest will be thicker now and the road narrower as you climb along Halfmoon Creek. After a half mile you will cross the creek and climb further to a ledge section that brings you around the valley and then drops back down to the creek. Another mile will have you crossing Halfmoon Creek again.
Second creek crossing

photo by:
Adam M

Another mile and a half will bring you to the gate at the Champion Mill property. You will not be able to drive beyond this point. Just past the gate is a refurbished miners cabing.
Miners cabin

photo by:
Adam M

Further up the road beyond the gate the Champion Mill is visible in the trees. It is a large structure that sits on a bare hill in the valley below Mount Champion.
Champion Mill

photo by:
Adam M

Champion Mill

photo by:
Adam M

Champion Mill

photo by:
Adam M

Equipment inside the Champion Mill

photo by:
Adam M

Equipment inside the Champion Mill

photo by:
Adam M

Champion Mill

photo by:
Adam M

Beyond the Champion Mill the old road to the mine climbs the south side of the valley heading towards Mount Champion. It will do two switchbacks as it climbs to a saddle between Mount Champion and Frasco Peak. Beyond the saddle the road becomes a ledge road that hugs the side of Mount Champion above Lackawanna Gulch.
Champion Mine up top

photo by:
Adam M

Champion Mine, cabin at old tram turn around

photo by:
Adam M

At the end of the road is the old cabin and collapsed tunnel which sits above the remains of the tram turn around. At one time there was a tram line that ran over the ridge and straight back down to the Champion Mill. If you look in the valley south west of the Mill you will see the remains of the towers.
Tram bull wheel

photo by:
Adam M

Bull wheel detail

photo by:
Adam M


Data updated: January 6, 2014        4WD Road driven: September 17, 2005        Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2014