LoJ: #362 (Pre-LiDAR #364) / 13,347' Brown Mountain

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Ironton
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 55' 15.43", W 107° 38' 16.20" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

We are not sure how "Brown Mountain" acquired it's name. On the 1955 USGS Ironton quad, it is simply designated "DUCO" "VABM 13,339." The FS Topo 2016 has a similar designation. On LoJ, it has an alternate name of "Duco Benchmark."

With a 4WD to access the trailhead we suggest, Brown Mtn., is a short and easy Class 2 hike over a mix of tundra and rubble. Enjoy great views of Ironton Park and the upper zones of Cement Creek. Easiest vehicle access is out of Silverton, but those with capable, shorter-bed 4WD's, can access this summit from Corkscrew Gulch via US550 and Ironton. Lidar measurements added 8 feet to this summit.

Brown Mountain Southwest Ridge Route

Class 2
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Gray Copper Pass: 3mi / 1,705'
  • Trailhead
    • Gray Copper Pass TH

      This trailhead is mainly for reaching Brown Mountain only, however, some may wish to add in Red Mountain #1 which is close by to the WSW. What we are calling Gray Copper Pass, is not an official name found on any maps. This pass is at the head of Gray Copper Gulch, so we named it after that, and it can be accessed from the Ironton area along US550, or it can also be accessed from Silverton by the following means described in the next paragraph, which is the easiest vehicle access. The access from Ironton utilizes the 4WD road up Corkscrew Gulch. This is FR886. We drove this road DOWN once we had finished hiking Brown Mountain. The road has some very steep sections, is very narrow for much of its length and has some very tight switchbacks. Longer bed vehicles are not advised.

      From Silverton, drive northwest on the main street through town, past the courthouse, and one block later, you'll come to a "Y" intersection. Instead of veering right, as you would for all the 13ers located up along the Animas River, stay straight. In another block, the paved road will make a turn to the left, then back to the right, then it will come to another intersection. Turn left to follow the gravel based CO110 north for 7.5 miles all the way to Gladstone, which is a large mining operation.

      At Gladstone, veer left above the mining operation to gain CR10, which continues north, following the west side of Cement Creek. It's 1.9 miles from the Gladstone turnoff to where we suggest parking for the hike. Drive this road north from Gladstone until you come to an intersection at about 1.8 mile up. Make a hard left turn, drive about 1,000 feet to another intersection and park. The only portion of this road that was in any way difficult when we drove it in 2002, was just this last 1,000 foot section and to where we parked. We drove to here in a stock Cherokee Sport and experienced no difficulties. If your vehicle is capable, you could follow the road that goes to the top of Gray Copper Pass and park near that summit. It may be possible for some cross-over type vehicles to make it to here, but keep in mind that it's been 18 years since we drove this road and with increasing 4WD, ATV, ORV use, the road may not be as passable as it once was.


      The nearest national forest campground is the one located four miles up South Mineral Creek. Otherwise, all other options are primitive, undeveloped sites. Back at Ironton, there is a good primitive area located up the road that leads to both Gray Copper and Corkscrew Gulches. There are also other primitive sites along US550 just southwest of Ironton and down by the river. We have made no notes regarding any primitive sites along Cement Creek out of Silverton. There's a NF campground up at Little Molas Lake and the Molas Lake Park operated by the Town of Silverton at Molas Lake. This is a fee area as well as the Little Molas Lake site. A primitive site shows at the top of Gray Copper Pass. There's also some open camping if you drive south from Gladstone up the short distance along the South Fork of Cement Creek.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Brown Mountain Southwest Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2002

    Begin by hiking through tundra/grass to the south slope of Brown Mtn., and in the direction of the summit of Gray Copper Pass. Then gain a good 600 feet elevation of the steep, south facing slope of tundra until you get onto the southwest ridge. As we hiked along the ridge, we encountered quite a few domestic sheep droppings as well as some elk, so during summer months you may find a large sheep herd in the vicinity.

    It required less than an hour and a half to battle our way through strong, September winds along the grassy and rocky ridge to the summit, but in the frigid winds, it seemed much longer. There were no real obstacles anywhere along the way, but it was a little rocky at points. At the summit, there was no reasonable place to get out of the wind. We did find and sign a register.

    The descent back to your vehicle should go very quickly. In about 45 minutes, we were back. We drove back down from the pass and picked up another road over to a pass just south of Red Mtn. #1. This is at the head of Corkscrew Gulch. We paused at the summit to take in more of the view and then began the descent on the west side of the pass. Unlike the old survey map we had, the road zigs and zags its way down the rocky mountainside here. The switchbacks are sharp, the road narrow, the drop offs severe and much of the road above timberline when we drove it was covered in snow. With some real caution, we made it down with no problems to the basin at tree line. From here on, it was fairly easy going compared to the white knuckle descent earlier. We continued on down and intersected the highway at Ironton. Overall, this is an exciting and scenic drive if you have a capable vehicle.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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