Trapped in the lowlands between Sheep Mountain and Pinnacle Ridge, the first five miles unravels along an easy grade. After reaching the first difficult, washed-out crossing (aided by cairns), the basin walls narrow through a long stretch punctuated by waterfalls.
Hugging tight to the East Fork Cimarron River, the trail gains 100 feet across the next 0.9 miles. Lurching into and out of alpine meadows, the rugged summit of Uncompahgre Peak
becomes clearer behind the folds of the basin wall. Then, in a wide thicket marred by heavy blowdown, the old mining road stumbles across the rotting ruins of the Silver Jack Mine. This mine once brought in gold, lead and silver; but today, the forest has reclaimed all but the foundations of a few collapsed cabins, and the rusted mining equipment that remain of the venture.
With another 0.2 miles, the trail meets with the raging, snow-fed East Creek Cimarron River. With no bridge and no downed timber nearby, a wet crossing finds the west banks. In spring, the snowmelt could make this crossing dangerous, so plan accordingly and be prepared.
With the river now encased in cliffs, the trail pulls away from the waterway to find the scree covered hillsides, then drops into a wet drainage spilling from high within the basin’s rocky wall.
Climbing out on the opposite banks, an easy third of a mile finds Middle Fork #227
. At the split, continue straight into a wide meadow. Gaining steam at one final stretch of pine, the trail pushes through treeline to the head of the basin. Disappearing in the tundra, a gain of about 1,200 feet summits the high 12,400 foot saddle between Uncompahgre Peak
and Wetterhorn. The route ends here at the Ridge Stock Driveway #233
I saw signs of elk and deer all along the trail.