As we drive along the Million Dollar Highway in Ouray, we look up at an old building perched on the mountain side that says “Antiques 9-5:30” always wondering what is up there. Last summer, as my desire to explore more of Ridgway and Ouray grew stronger, I decided that we should find the trail and see what was up there. Before our trip this year I made sure to take some time and research the famous “Antique building with the clothes line”, or the Neosho Mine, along highway 550.
The trail begins at the Neosho/Sutton Mine Trailhead just outside of Ouray. Take highway 550 to Ouray County Road 361 (the road to Yankee Boy Basin). From there you are going to pass the Ice Park kiosk. Take the road up a little ways and the trail will be on your left. There isn’t designated parking, just a wide shoulder to park on the side of the road. The hike is 4.4 miles round trip.
The hike trail to the Neosho Mine provides spectacular views of Ouray, Bear Creek Falls, and the Million Dollar Highway. The first half mile of the hike is very steep. So not only does this trail take your breath away figuratively but also literally. The first half mile is no joke. Just for making it to the half mile mark…I think you’ve earned a stop at Panny’s Pizza and Ice Cream in Ridgway.
From the half mile mark it is a gradual up hill 1.7 mile hike to the Neosho Mine. The hike takes you through pine trees, some aspens, dense forest, over a few streams, and open meadows providing a new perspective of the mountain side that you see as you drive Red Mountain Pass.
As you get closer to the Neosho Mine, you can see old tramway cables that have fallen down over the years. Looking across the Uncompahgre River Gorge you can see the remnants of the mill the cables used to stretch to.
We finally get to see this building we have looked at and wondered about all these years! We are standing in front of the blacksmith shop at the Neosho Mine. There is also a bunkhouse, a few small outbuildings and the mine itself.
Inside the blacksmith shop were old tools, pieces of glass, and other items from when the mine was in use. You can still see the focal point of the blacksmith shop; the coal bed where they would heat the metal to make or bend tools for mining.
The three room bunk house was still fairly intact. The bunkhouse could house six men. The bunks were still in place along with the desk and shelves in what looks to be the office area. On one wall of the bunkhouse were old tattered pictures of women and what looks like old fashioned undergarments. (Though it can’t be confirmed when those undergarments were hung there.) There was a ladder/stairs that led to a basement or cellar. You can see the windows of the cellar from the outside of the house. You could also access the cellar from those windows.
Outside of the Neosho Mine blacksmith shop is the clothes line that is visible from the Million Dollar Highway. We thought it would be fun to add an item of our own on the line! We took a kitchen towel I had in the camper (that conveniently had an “R” on it) and put our names on it to hang on the line. It was neat after hiking the trail to drive on the highway and see the towel up there and think about our hike.
On the other side of the blacksmith shop was the Neosho Mine itself. Pictured here (above) are the tracks and the cart that were used in the mine. The cart at the end would dump the mill tailings off the cliff into the Uncompahgre River Gorge. Behind Collin (top picture) is opening to the mine. Ben estimated the mine goes back just over 600ft. The mine did not prove to be a money maker through its years of 1908-1930.
This mine is another prime example of hard work and little payoff for miners that helped shape the history of Ouray. For Margret and Edward Weatherly (owners of Neosho Mine in the early 20th century) this mine was their life even though it drove them broke. If your travels take you to Ouray, the hike to the Neosho Mine should be on your to-do-list. Enjoy your next adventure.