Copyright: Zander Higbie - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Ranch Creek Area at Camp Hale
This road leaves historic Camp Hale, a training ground primarily used by the military during World War II. Camp Hale is partially responsible for the creation of Vail and Beaver Creek Ski resorts, as some of the soldiers who trained at Camp Hale returned to start these world class ski areas. Be sure to read the information sign posted at a turnoff on Highway 24, near the south end of Camp Hale.
Ranch Creek Jeep road is a great choice for those looking for challenging four-wheeling, but who don't want to spend all day in their vehicle. This road gains elevation quickly, and visitors frequently see wildlife including marmots, deer and elk. After 1/4 mile, the road weaves in and out of a mature aspen forest, alternating with open meadow featuring great views to the west and south. At 2 miles, be sure to pull over to visit the ruins of a sheep herding camp. Bring your bug spray, though. It is estimated that these cabins were built around 1870 because of the square headed nails that were used.
At just under 4 miles, you'll reach the summit with amazing views of the Sawatch range, and fourteen thousand foot peaks to the south. If you stop in this meadow, please be aware of the fragile tundra, and enjoy the abundance of wildflowers from the road, so that others may do the same in the future.
You may wish to walk a little further down this road... there is a 10th Mountain Division Hut here. Jackal Hut is one of the nicest in this link of huts used by cross-country skiers and hikers, and boasts a spacious main floor and a sauna. Call the 10th Mountain Division Hut System for more information.
At this point, carefully turn your vehicle around, and enjoy the trip back the way you came.
The beginning of this trail frequently has a lot of biting insects. Be sure to bring bug spray. The trail is quite steep in many sections. Be sure to take your time in "4-low" and do not spin your wheels. Spinning won't get you anywhere, and will only dig you in deeper!
Please do not leave the main road at any time, since this fragile area could be closed to visitors if it is not taken care of.
Directions from Vail: Take I-70 to the Minturn exit (#171). Follow Highway 24 south, through the town of Minturn, and continue a total distance of 14 miles from the interstate until you reach a valley opening. Look for the first major turnoff on the left (east) side onto a dirt road entering Camp Hale. Follow the road to the immediate right and at .5 miles from Highway 24 take a left at the "Y" and then a right at the immediate next "Y". Follow this road south approximately .5 miles until it curves left (east) and look for the Ranch Creek Jeep Road sign on your right (north).
Summer through Fall
(NOTE: Seasons vary depending on snow depths)