GPS Coordinates 39°40'59.5"N 105°42'10.0"W
Rating - 4
Argentine Pass is a relatively easy trail and can be traveled in a capable off-road 4 wheel drive vehicle, as long as there is not a significant amount of snow on the trail. The trail to the Waldorf mine is a well maintained converted railroad bed that does not present any significant challenges. After the mine there are a couple of small creek crossings and a short steep incline followed by a couple of miles on a moderately steep hill with several switchbacks
From Colorado Springs go north on I25 for about 50 miles to C470, on the south side of Denver. Go west on C470 for another 26 miles then turn and go west on I70 for about 32 miles to the town of Georgetown. Take exit 228, go under the freeway and take a right (west) at the 4 way stop. Follow the signs to Guanella Pass through the historic downtown area of Georgetown. The road out of Georgetown is narrow, very steep and loaded with swithbacks. About 2.5 miles out of Georgetown watch for a small parking lot on the right side of one of the switchbacks. This will begin the road to Argentine Pass, FR248.1. The sign for the trail is not visible until you start up the trail.
FR248.1 is referred to by the Forest Service as the Waldorf/Argentine Pass road. Waldorf was an bustling Colorado mining town during the 1880s but like most of the mining towns of that era and altitude Waldorf is now a ghost town known only in the pages of history. Before the mining collapse in Colorado, Waldorf had the distinction of being known as the town with the highest elevation in America with a post office. Today, the only remains of the town of Waldorf are the mine tailings and a couple of mining artifacts.
The road to the Argentine Pass is really in 2 different sections. The first section is rather uneventful and is a well maintained, a converted railroad bed that will take you to the Waldorf mine, about 6 miles from the trailhead. The last 2.5 miles of the trail is steep and has a couple of rocky spots as you climb several switchbacks to the apex of the trail.
In the first .5 mile on the 248.1 trail you will be presented with a couple of options, stay to the right on the turns to continue on the main trail. The options to the left are a couple of shortcuts that are a little more interesting than the main trail up the mountain. These shortcuts are Forest Service maintained trails and are acceptable to those who strictly adhere to Tread Lightly.
The converted railroad bed is a ledge road that cuts through a beautiful conifer forest. There are several options after the shortcuts but they are labeled as different trails and should not be taken unless you are in an exploring mood. At about 3.5 miles the road will fork and you will want to stay to the right or on the road that continues to rise in elevation.
At the Waldorf mine the road to the right is FR248.i and will take you to McClellen Mt. The road to McClellen Mt. is another converted railroad bed that can be covered in just about any vehicle. The interesting part of the FR248.i trail is the remains of the Santiago Mine, other abandoned mines and and some stunning, picturesque Bristlecone trees.
To reach Argentine Pass travel through the Waldorf mine tailings, the trail is just past the mine and is labeled 724.1. This is the road you will want to take, as this is really a combined trail with 248.1. Shortly after the mine 724.1, will detour left to another mine and the trail ahead will be labeled 248.1, stay on 248.1. This trail will take you to the top of Argentine Pass. At the top of the trail you will feel like you are on top of the world and the views of the basin are extraordinary.
There is plenty of parking at the top of the pass and if you look to the west and down you can see where the Argentine Pass trail used to meet up with the Peru Creek trail. From Argentine Pass the access to Peru Creek is now only a hiking trail. On the way back down the trail there will be a sharp turn to the right before the Waldorf mine that will take you to the opposite side of the basin which will give you another perspective of this magnificent basin.