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4x4 Rocky Mountain Adventure - Saxon Mountain Switchbacks

Posted in Events on February 1, 2009
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The Saxon Mountain Switchbacks climb 3000 feet in elevation to the mountain peak.

Politicians like to talk about global warming. No doubt there has been a lot of it going on in Colorado. About 10,000 years ago, give or take a few centuries, the Rocky Mountains near Georgetown were covered with glaciers. All that global warming caused by the campfires from whoever lived here back then must have caused those glaciers to start melting. As they melted, they created raging rivers that carved out massive valleys and left majestic peaks like the one now referred to as Saxon Mountain.

Whoever caused all that melting did not leave any records behind as to how they did it, but by the time the Gold Rush hit the state about 1859, the glaciers were all gone. Saxon Mountain was named in 1866. At that time, a pair of prospectors filed their claim on a rich outcropping of silver and named it the Anglo Saxon Mine. They sold the claim and by the time Colorado became a state in 1876, the mine was booming. Its new owner became one of Colorado's first U.S. senators.

The Anglo Saxon Mine sold again to the Parker family and eventually played out. In 1936, Mrs. Parker gave the mine to a friend as a wedding present. The friend's married name was Idun Marie Berry. She apparently came from a wealthy family and decided to grubstake her husband in his search for the mysterious missing main vein of the Anglo Saxon Mine. The original discovery had only been an outcropping that was severed from the main vein by a fault in the Earth that had shifted millions of years ago. If only they could find the main vein, there should be enough silver to reopen the mine and keep it running for decades. Unfortunately, none of the new shafts ever hit the missing vein. In December of 1983, the Berrys gave their mining claims consisting of 250 acres on Saxon Mountain to the Georgetown Society to be preserved for historic and recreational purposes. It is doubtful the Anglo Saxon Vein will ever be found.

Landslides like this one will partially block the path. Depending on the size of the landslide, moving a few rocks out of the way may be required.

We now use Saxon Mountain for its intended purpose as often as time permits. It is a beautiful day trip or weekend trip from the Denver metro area. There is a picnic table, fire rings, and camping sites at the peak of the mountain with breathtaking views in every direction. The power station for the many antennas hidden in the trees might disturb some people, but it's not difficult to find a nice location to camp a little farther away from them. There are also some historic markers that point out the mountain peaks, the paths the glaciers took as they receded and information about the mining activities.

Most of the fun driving up Saxon Mountain involves the numerous switchbacks. Every turn provides a different view of the mountains and valleys that surround Saxon Mountain. Georgetown and the I-70 corridor is nearly always visible. With each switchback, more elevation is gained, and the more spectacular the views become.

The road begins in Georgetown on the south side of the lake at about 8,500 feet in elevation. The drive to the top is a little less than 8 miles and climbs 3,000 feet to the peak, where our GPS measured 11,446 feet. Some sections of the route are fairly smooth and others require careful rock crawling when using a stock vehicle. Some of the switchbacks have a steep incline while others are fairly flat. Landslides can occur and in some places, the route simply climbs over previous slides that partially block the path.

There are several intersections. Some of them lead to private property so watch carefully for any such posting. Others lead to the remains of mining operations abandoned long ago. There are several log cabins along side the main route that no longer have a roof and will eventually fade into the landscape.

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The view from the top of the mountain is spectacular.

One intersection has a Forest Service sign and points to other destinations. If either of those routes is taken, we hope you planned to spend the night. There are enough roads and hiking adventures available to keep the whole family entertained for days. Some of those roads are extremely difficult while others are about the same as the Saxon Mountain road. Depending on the vehicle being used, some routes may be too much of a challenge. Simply turn around and find another one to explore.

Spending some time in Georgetown can also be entertaining. The main attraction is the Georgetown Loop Historic Railroad. Anyone with a fear of heights might not enjoy the high mountain trestles, but most people love the ride for its scenic views. Others are content to take a walk through the downtown area, visiting the numerous shops, the museum, or the historic Hamil House.

Georgetown is also known for the Big Horn Sheep that roam the nearby hills. The folks at the visitors center can provide information about where the herd can be found.

The Saxon Mountain SwitchbacksThe journey begins at Exit 228 on I-70 which is the exit for Georgetown, Colorado. Coming from Denver, that's a left turn, go under the overpass, and drive to the stop sign just past the visitor center. The first position below is at that stop sign.

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Odometer Latitude Longitude Comments
0.0 N39 42.9146 W105 41.7215 Go straight and over the bridge
0.1 N39 42.8981 W105 41.5668 Turn left on Main St. and follow it to the sign for Saxon Mountain Road
0.4 N39 43.1662 W105 41.4828 Take the right fork. Saxon Mountain Road sign is on the right side of the intersection. The other direction is a one way road downhill.
2.3 N39 43.4992 W105 41.0265 Straight at this intersection. Campsites available here.
6.3 N39 43.6659 W105 39.4039 Stay on the road going straight. The left turn goes to other destinations.
7.6 N39 43.3819 W105 40.3194 Saxon Peak. 11,446 feet high. There are historic markers, a picnic table and fire ring, and campsites available.

Larry E. Heck has been writing back country adventure stories since 1985. E-books for Trails of the Ancient Ones and the Outlaw Trail are now available at Sponsor inquiries are welcome. For more info, write to or call 303-349-9937.

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