Length: 3.4 miles to Carson town site; 4.8 miles to the Continental Divide
Difficulty: Moderate walking at high altitude
Season of use: July through October
Amount of Use: Moderate jeep use, light hiking, mountain biking
9,300-12,400 ft. at the Continental Divide
How to Get There: From Lake City, take Highway 149 south for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto the road to Lake San Cristobal. Follow the paved road about 4 miles, then continue on the dirt road for another 5.2 miles. The trail is on the left at the Wager Gulch/Carson sign.
Trailhead Parking/Camping: Parking is available along the side of the main road. Camping is not allowed at the trailhead.
Attractions: Wager Gulch road is a rough four-wheel drive route leading to Carson, the best preserved ghost town in the San Juans. Although the road gets a fair amount of use by vehicles, those without 4wd may enjoy a day hike or mountain bike ride to the town site. The trail continues up to the Continental Divide where hiking or mountain biking is possible in almost every direction. You can also connect with the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail from here.
Narrative: The first l.5 miles of the trail is a steady, sometimes steep climb. Leveling out a bit, the terrain leads through open meadows and aspen stands, finally reaching Carson, 3.4 miles from the trailhead at 11,600 ft. Carson was established in 1881 with the discovery of silver and gold and abandoned in 1902. The ghost town is now privately owned. Currently, the owners allow visitors to stroll through Carson, but this privilege is dependent on how well the land and building remains are respected. From Carson, the trail climbs another 1.4 miles to the Continental Divide at 12,400 feet.
Hazards/Considerations: Although the vehicles will not be traveling fast, the Wager Gulch road does gets a moderate amount of jeep, atv and motorcycle use, so mountain bikers and hikers should stay alert, especially around corners. It is important to be prepared for typical July and August afternoon thundershowers. Stay off the ridges and away from open ground to avoid lightning strikes. Be sure to bring water sunscreen and rain gear. Remember, hiking at high altitude requires more time and energy. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and avoid overexertion. Be sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
Additional Information: The Forest Service trail system south of the Continental Divide may be used by mountain bikers and hikers. Three additional routes may be taken once on the Continental Divide. Heart Lake can be reached on a 3.7 mile trail heading southeast. You can continue on the Colorado Trail for 5.8 miles west to the Cataract Lakes. The Cataract Gulch Trail winds down to the main road (mountain bikes and motorcycles are not allowed on this trail). Finally, an 8.4 mile hike down Lost Trail Creek ends at the Forest Service's Lost Trail Campground. For more information on these trails see the Forest Service trail descriptions.
Created by the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado
Point of Contact: Jim Lovelace
Last modified: January 6, 2011