Turn onto the road and you’ll see the sign more clearly. The road is dirt and in the spring is impassible. I drove it July 24th and it was quite dry and easily traversable. There is no scree to speak of. Parts of the road follow the old railroad grade that used to haul the ore out up over Red Mountain Pass, so these parts are gently sloped. Other parts of the road are a bit steeper. There are some ruts here and there. You’ll cross over two small bridges so that you’ll be on the east side of the Uncompahgre River. The road winds back and forth quite a bit. It can be hard to decide which way the road goes because there are so many short side roads. The following photo shows how dramatic the scenery can be. The photo looks sharply up across the tailings pile to a head frame, which held the pulley for the ore car. That’s one of the Red Mountains behind.
So, let’s talk about the GPS track. As you can see, you can access CR 31 either from the north (as I did) or the south (as I’ve done previously). The road crosses over the Uncompahgre River in either case. Note that this is within a mile or two of the Uncompahgre headwaters, so it’s a mere creek at this point. The road winds between the old mines and it’s possible to take a wrong turn. If you do, just go back and take another fork. A few words of warning: keep your motorcycle away from the mines themselves—a hundred-year-old rusty nail can give you a flat tire just as surely as a new nail. When walking around the old ruins, be very careful. No one is responsible for your safety other than you, and some of these old mines can be dangerous. Be careful entering structures and ensure the floor can hold your weight. Do not take anything, not even a little chunk of wood or an old nail (besides being immoral, it’s also illegal). Stay away from open shafts or tunnels as they are over 120 years old and are unstable. Bottom line: it’s incredibly cool to get this close to the old mines—you don’t need to stand at some viewpoint to see them—you can just walk right up to and in them! But do be careful. (For those of you who choose the paved highway, there is a viewpoint on US Hwy 550 across from the Yankee Girl Mine, replete with interpretive signs and some cool old preserved residential structures.)