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Summit County snowshoe: Saints John near Keystone/Montezuma

Barn at the Saints John Trailhead
Barn at the Saints John Trailhead
Deb Stanley

It can be hard to find the perfect snowshoe. I want scenery, but I also want a destination -- a waterfall, a lake, a mine or historic buildings. Saints John is a great choice, because it's short, it's got a moderate elevation gain, it has a mining ruins and a few old cabins.

View from Saints John
Deb Stanley

The trail starts in Montezuma, about 7.5 miles from Keystone (directions below). The hard part is finding parking. Several articles and blogs mentioned a parking lot in town at the turnoff for the Saints John, we didn't see that. Some mention a parking lot about .75 miles from town, we didn't see that either. We parked right on Saints John Road. We found room for about 3-5 vehicles on the side of the road. We also spotted a parking lot about a mile before Montezuma. So, just a warning, finding a parking spot may be difficult.

The trail starts on Saints John Road, just a few yards from Main Street in Montezuma. There's one home here, then an old, large barn. A few feet up the road is a sign that says "Sts. John Road 4-wheel drive only."

The road is not blocked off in winter, so while you may be able to drive a 4-wheel drive vehicle up here, most of the tracks you'll see are from snowmobilers, skiers and snowshoers.

Just behind the sign the "Sts. John Road" sign, you may spot a small cabin in the trees. It's worth the short walk over to the cabin for a couple pictures. I especially love shooting a picture from inside these old cabins, using the window frames to frame the nearby scenery.

When you're done looking at the old buildings, head up the road. The road is your trail all the way to Saints John. Because the road is in a valley and surrounded by trees, expect only patches of sunlight if you come early in the morning.

The road switchbacks a couple times to a small fork about a half mile up. Take a few steps down the turnoff and you'll see what looks like a river with another trail going off to the right. That's the trail to the Hunkidori Mine. There are conflicting reports, but it looks like the mine is about 2.5 miles from this turnoff. For this trip, let's continue trekking up Saints John Road.

Soon, the trees begin to open a bit and you'll get glimpses of the peaks surrounding this valley.

At 1.25 miles from the trailhead, we spotted a sign on a tree that said, "Town of Sts. John, Elev. 11,000 feet." Note, you're not at 11,000 feet yet, just 10,800. There's speculation that the 11,000-feet is the elevation of the Mine above Saints John.

By the way, "Saints John" is correct. The Forest Service website says Saints John was originally named Coleyville after John Coley, the man who made the first silver strike in Colorado in 1863. In 1867 the town name was changed to the biblical name of Saints John after Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, the Patron Saint of Masonry. Saints John was on the route between Montezuma and Breckenridge. The town dwindled during the late 1880s and eventually died in the 1890s.

The Saints John town sign warns that it's private property beyond this point. However, it's legal to explore in this area, as long as you stay on the road. Hike a short distance and you should be able to spot the old mine and smelter fireplace on the hill to your left. You should also see several cabins on your right. The road winds past some mining ruins to the Berry House. A sign here says it was built in 1869.

As you explore here, make sure you turn around and look down valley at the incredible mountain range behind you.

From here, you may notice road/trail #275 continues up the valley. It's another 1.5 miles to the Wild Irishman Mine, but there are avalanche chutes on that section of the trail, so we turned around here.

Details: The hike to Saints John and back is about 2.75 miles with 580 feet of elevation gain.

If you're looking for more snowshoe trails in Summit County, I recommend Mayflower Gulch (near Copper Mountain) and the Sallie Barber Mine (Breckenridge). Check out this list of the best snowshoes near Denver and this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado.

Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel east on Highway 6 towards Keystone. Just past Keystone, turn right onto Montezuma Road (CR 5). Follow Montezuma Road for 5.5 miles to the town of Montezuma. Travel through Montezuma to Saints John Road and turn right to access the road. The Forest Service says parking is not allowed along the town streets in Montezuma.