There are so MANY snowshoe options around Buena Vista and Salida. You can snowshoe tall mountain peaks, or paths along a river, you can snowshoe part of the Colorado Trail and much more. We decided to find something near the “ghost town” of St. Elmo.
St. Elmo isn’t really a ghost town, people live here. There’s even a B&B. However, there are so few people here and there are so many fascinating cabins from the early 1900s that many people call it a ghost town. During the summer, hundreds of people flock to St. Elmo to explore the town and the old mines and nearby trails. Come in the winter and there are very few people wandering around here.
When we arrived, we drove through town trying to find the trailhead. We went back to the big, plowed parking lot just before the town started and asked there. Even though there were quite a few snowshoers getting ready for their treks, and quite a few snowmobilers setting up, no one knew where the trailhead was. We wandered around, but got lucky when the B&B manager explained how to find the Poplar Gulch Trailhead.
Walk through town, passing several old homes, the old blacksmith, the old general store and the Ghost Town Guesthouse (the B&B). When you see the sign for Tincup Pass 6 miles, turn here. Go a few steps, cross over the bridge/creek, and turn left on the next snowed in street. This is the road to Tincup Pass.
You’ll pass several more homes and start heading out of town. Just before the road starts to climb, you’ll see a sign for the Poplar Gulch Trailhead. However, this sign just says the trailhead has been relocated, up Tincup Pass. So stay on the main road, heading uphill. At 0.6 miles from the parking lot where you started, you’ll come to the signed Poplar Gulch Trailhead.
This is a lovely trail. It starts by winding through a grove of Aspens. Even in winter, with their leaves gone, this thick grove is quite striking. Follow the path as it winds to the official trailhead for Poplar Gulch Trail No. 1436. From here, the trail continues to wind through meadows and forest.
About a mile or so from the parking lot, the trail begins to climb. Now you’re hiking up the hillside above St Elmo. The trail is quite pleasant and when the trees open up, you’ll get a great view of the surrounding mountain peaks. The trail switchbacks (crisscrosses) the hillside until you get to a large meadow near the top. Depending on how much snow has fallen, you’ll likely have to turn around here.
When you get back into St. Elmo, it’s time to explore some more. Instead of turning left and heading back to the parking lot, turn right and explore. At the building that says Stark Bros Store and Post Office, there are old articles and signs in the window that tell some of the history of the area.
This building was originally built in 1880 and was a hotel. Guests would arrive by train and the hotel had elaborate brass beds and rugs. There was running water in the kitchen, but guests had to step outside to use privys. The hotel closed in 1930, but the mercantile continued to operate until the late 1950s. You can read more in the windows.
Continue to wander through town, seeing more cottages and homes from 1880-1881 and the old schoolhouse. When you’ve run out of buildings, turn around and head back through town to the parking lot. When you pass the General Store, the building that says Miner’s Exchange, look for the Chipmunk Crossing sign in the snow. In summer, hundreds of people come here each day to feed the chipmunks. In winter, it’s much more quiet.
Learn more about St Elmo here. Find more Colorado snowshoeing trails, Buena Vista snowshoeing trail and Colorado hiking trails in this extensive list. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, find the “subscribe to author” button at the bottom of this page and follow me on Facebook.
Details: The snowshoe through town, up the Poplar Gulch Trail to the meadow and back exploring through town is about 4.5 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From the intersection of Highway 285 and U.S. 34 in Johnson’s Corner, south of Buena Vista, continue south on Highway 285 about 5.7 miles to the 162/Chalk Creek Drive turnoff. There should be signs for Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. The hot springs are a great place to stop on your way back from St. Elmo. From Highway 285 to St Elmo is about 15.7 miles. In the winter, expect the road to be icy and snowpacked.