Nestled deep inside a remote alpine basin 12,000 feet up, with no motorized access and a long trek in, the Lewis Mine is one of Colorado’s best living examples of mining history today, despite having only survived through three years of production.
During the early 1900s, in the cusp of a new era for Colorado mining, the five-story Lewis Mill was a state of the art facility which marked the transition from stamp milling to full chemical flotation. Today, it’s the last of these transitional mills which still houses its original milling equipment.
Lewis Mill was at one time capable of cranking out 12 tons of ore concentrate in a single day. But having sat vacant since the forties, with only sporadic use after 1912, the aging remains of the timber-sided structure now cling to the mountainside, each year shedding another piece of its livelihood to the harsh alpine elements.
To access the Lewis Lake trail, hike or drive the Bridal Veil Falls road to the Bridal Veil Power Station. From here, the Bridal Veil Trail #636
continues 1.8 miles to where the Blue Lake Trail
peels off to the left. Continuing right onto the overgrown doubletrack, Bridal Veil Trail #636
crosses its namesake creek, then strays west to bypass a series of rocky outcrops. After another 1.4 miles, you'll hit a second unmarked junction as the Bridal Veil Trail #636
peels off to the right towards Ophir, many miles to the southwest, eventually to connect with Telluride's Bear Creek Falls
Turning left here, the Lewis Lake and Mine trail sweeps back to the east to follow an old mining road along steady grades through rich meadows of brilliant wildflowers. Treading south, more or less, the trail gains elevation, meeting back up with Bridal Veil Creek just before the mine slips into view.
Spared from certain death by demolition, the five-story mill was restored by a State Historical Fund grant in 2001 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. During rehabilitation, the materials had to be flown in by helicopter, and the workers entered the site by way of ATVs or their own two feet.
Rising along a steep drainage beyond the mill, the trail strains to the 12,700-foot dam at the east end of Lewis Lake. The trail ends here, but beyond that, switchbacks summit Columbine Pass 300 feet higher for a bird's eye view on the Columbine Lake Trail #509
The lower half of the trail travels through the typical stands of pine before reaching treeline, where a spectacular display of wildflowers opens up.