It was a cool snowy day in mid-April when we set out to ride the trails north of Empire, Colorado. We all arrive at the staging area east of Empire around 9:00am. It was breezy with temperatures in the thirties and about an inch or two of snow on the ground. To get to the main trails we had to ride up Red Elephant Hill, for what I called riding the red elephant.
Red Elephant Hill is scattered with old silver mines from the late 1800s. Most mines in the area were run by the Red Elephant Mining Company. The Red Elephant Mining Company shipped several tons of high grade silver ore to Golden, Colorado each day during its operation. Most mining operations had shut down on the hill in the early 1900s.
The Red Elephant Hill trail is a moderately difficult trail and with the snow on it, was very fun for the five of us enduring the challenge today. Our hopes were to ride the Red Elephant Hill trail to the top where it connects with the Bill Moore Lake trail and the Mill Creek loop.
The wind would pick up from time to time and it snowed off and on for our entire ride but the temperatures stayed in the thirties. The Red Elephant Hill trail is about two miles long to the top and has a small loop that is much tighter and as steep if not steeper than the main trail.
Two of the ATVs with us had stock tires and required some assistance here and there on the way up to the top. The rest of us had larger aftermarket tires (Maxxis BigHorns and PitBull Rockers) and had no problems with the rocks or snow on the hill.
Once on top of the hill we rode about another mile and hit some 2-3 foot deep snow drifts. These drifts had been there for some time and most we could ride on top of. I was leading the pack when we finally hit a very big snow drift and I got stuck. The right side of my ATV sunk into the drift while the left side stayed on top.
I thought I would just hook up the winch and pull myself through breaking the trail for the others, but my winch cable broke (time for a new synthetic winch rope). So one of the others had to winch me back off of the drift. Upon further investigation of the trail just beyond the snow drift we found a big tree had fallen on the trail with no way around.
Our plans of hooking up with the Bill Moore Lake trail and the Mill Creek loop were not going to happen on this trip. So we rode back down Red Elephant Hill and rode the loop trail back up. This was a little more challenging trail than the main one. Once up top again we turned around and came back down the same trail and then back to the staging area.
All in all we may have gotten in about ten miles and were loaded up and heading back home by about 2:00pm. Even though it was a short ride it was still fun riding the Red Elephant. This is probably the last ATV snow ride of the season but some of those snow drifts may be there for a couple more weeks. Hopefully someone with a chainsaw will move the big tree.
I would like to return in a month or so and finish what we started. This is a great area for ATV trail riding and we had a great group today to ride with.
Photos by author