Silver Plume Mountain from The Cottage
8.6 miles round trip
3,558ft of elevation gain
Hike time: 2hrs 59min
Silver Plume Mountain is a wonderfully challenging day hike that starts in the tiny Ghost Town of Silver Plume. The peak reaches nearly 12,500ft and opens to a vast tundra where many-a-mountain goat come to feast. This wonderful mountain is a hidden gem and very lightly trafficked, which is pretty neat, because it's also in our front yard!
The hike begins on a trail I posted about previously, the 730 Mine Trail. So you switchback up a mile or two and it's a fairly easy walk. Once you cross the beautiful stream, that's where the trail up to Silver Plume Mountain really starts. There isn't always much of a trail, but keep your eyes peeled and you should be able to see it. Basically, you're going to keep close to the stream for the next mile or so. This section of trail gains a lot of elevation and is a mix of loose rock and a lot of sand. You might see bones from elk and other animals- kills of a mountain lion. Make no bones about it (harharhar), this area is full of predators. Mainly mountain lion, black bear and various rodents. Once you get above tree line, then you're in prime territory of mountain goat, bighorn sheep and elk.
The trees start to thin out when you reach the first big clearing. From there, look to your right and see Republican Mountain. The trail goes away here, but it's pretty simple to summit- you have a very steep hill to go up and from the top of that, a tundra walk of about half a mile. Don't fret- that part is pretty flat!
Once you get to the tundra, you'll have amazing views of Grays and Torrey's, Grizzly, Cupid, Sniktau and uhhh... lots of other big mountains. Silver Plume's summit is down a short hill and up the next- you'll know it by a big pile of rocks and some old mining stuff. That mountain in front of you is Bard Peak. And if you have more energy you should probably summit it- you'll add a couple miles to the trip, but also get quite a bit higher and experience a new mountain. A win-win. You could also trek across the tundra basin to Republican Mountain, which would add significant time, but would also be super rad. This is a lush and glorious tundra, so do take care not to step on wildflowers or other very delicate plants. Take note of the ground- you'll realize that this is a hotspot for all kinds of wildlife (because poops). Pretty cool.
When we summited, we were greeted by a few ptarmigan and a whole lot of tiny chipmunks. The views all around were stunning, and I have a feeling that had there not been clouds to our right, we would have been able to see Longs Peak in the distance.
It created much stoke to summit this mountain and realize the possibilities right outside our door. This vast alpine tundra will be the perfect spot for winter adventures with so many possibilities. And thinking about seeing these precious ptarmigan as white poof-balls is very exciting to me.
If you want some solitude, a challenging day hike and a lot of tundra, I recommend this hike. A lot. There is such a sense of freedom to trek on a mountain that has no trail.
“Each stone, each bend cries welcome to him. He identifies with the mountains and the streams, he sees something of his own soul in the plants and the animals and the birds of the field." -Paulo Coelho