Bonita Peak is a Class 2 summit located west of the Animas River between the ghost towns of Eureka and Animas Forks, NE of Silverton. A higher clearance vehicle should get you up the Eureka Gulch Road to our proposed "trailhead." For this summit, we will treat it separately from any other summit, but Bonita may be paired with Emery Peak (unranked) and Proposal Peak to the south, connected by ridge.
Bonita Peak South Ridge Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Eureka Gulch - Lake Emma TH:
From the Town of Silverton, drive east on the main road through town to where the paved road splits one block past the courthouse and veer right onto the blue-signed County Road 2 (set odometer here) for 4.2 miles of nicely graded dirt road to Howardsville. (On Trails Illustrated map #141, this road is labeled #110. Pavement ends after 2 miles.) From the Howardsville intersection, continue north another 4.3 miles to the old site of Eureka. The road will cross to the west side of the Animas River and continue up a steeper shelf section. It begins to get rockier here. After a short climb, take the road sharply left that heads up into Eureka Gulch. This is BLM4508. ON Google Earth, this is labelled CR25. The turnoff is about a half mile after crossing to the west side of the Animas River. Drive up this road as it heads SW, then west up Eureka Gulch about 3.5 miles to something of an old switchback. One section of road now avoids the switchback, but turn off left onto the older road and park at the switchback curve. This will serve as the trailhead. See coordinates provided.
There are no official Forest Service campgrounds in the upper Animas River valley and summer weekends can see a swarm of campers in this overall area. Something of an "RV" village tends to build up at a large flat area along the river opposite the Maggie Gulch turnoff and then at the ghost town of Eureka, there's a number of campsites east of the river. This area is now a pay-campground. There is a store here called, "The Miner & Prospector Store." Campsites as of 2021 were $20 or $40 with electric. It is best to make a reservation by going to www.eurekacampground.com or contacting [email protected]. Cabins are also available at $75 per night and hot showers may be obtained for $10.
The best campsites we have found are along the spur road that leads to the trailhead for the South Fork of the Animas, aka: The"Boulder Gulch" trailhead. The road that heads into there has several primitive sites. Lastly, you could just camp at the switchback for the trailhead to Bonita. This location is open with no trees for shelter. None of these locations have facilities of any kind.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2002
When we climbed this summit, it was later fall and it had snowed a fair amount which changes conditions quite a bit. Several inches of snow covered most of the slopes as we headed up. First, hike WSW through the flat basin east of the summit, aiming for the main saddle south of the Bonita summit, between it and Emery. Then, hike up a steeper slope that leads to that saddle. Above 13,000 ft. we were finding substantial drifts of snow - up to 2 feet. The only challenge to this summit we encountered was the final climb to the summit ridge, which involved a steep hike over rocks and the last 50 yards or so of the summit ridge, that was a rocky and somewhat exciting catwalk. On the summit, we took the opportunity to take more pictures with the spectacular snowy backdrop of Tower Mtn. to the south and the catwalk ridge in the foreground. This view was really great and the lower angle of the sun now, made the lighting far more intense.
To descend, we headed south, back down the summit ridge and once we were off of it, we descended straight east down a talus-filled gully that allowed a rapid descent back into the basin east of the summit and past a small tarn. In about half an hour, we were back at the car and driving back to camp. Round-trip hike was only about two hours max. To make this climb more sporting, combine it with Proposal Peak. There is one reported difficult notch on the north nose of Emery to bypass.
If on this hike you were expecting to see Lake Emma, as shown on the 1955 Handies Quad, the lake is no longer there. In 1978, mining activity by the Sunnyside Mine, directly below the lake by about 75 feet, led to the collapse of the lake through the mine, sending thousands of gallons of water through the shafts and on downstream and tons of mud that literally filled some of the shafts. There are several stories on the internet about this event. Fortunately, the collapse happened on a weekend, so no loss of life. However, this was certainly what you would call an "Oh, Crap!!" moment.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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"The man that walks with the crowd, will get no farther than the crowd. The man that walks alone, will reach places unknown." Benjamin Franklin