Ghost Towns above Telluride: Tomboy Road

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When I first arrived in Telluride, the clouds were so thick and low I couldn’t see the mountaintops above the town.  Same goes for the historic hydro-electric power plant at Bridal Veil Falls.

Telluride, Bridal Veil Falls

On a later trip, I drove the dirt road up to the hydropower plant, and enjoyed a great view of the Telluride valley.  You can check out that visit here.

Thanks to old mining operations in the mountains surrounding Telluride (and most of Colorado, for that matter), there are plenty of good 4wd Jeep roads to travel, and several interesting ghost towns.  I chose Tomboy because it wasn’t terribly far from town, but still presented a challenge to reach.

Tomboy Road starts in downtown Telluride.  As you’re headed into town, take a left on N. Aspen St., then a right on W. Columbia Ave., then a left on N. Oak St. Drive uphill to the end of the street, then turn right on Tomboy Road.  It’s about 5 miles to the remnants of Tomboy, 7 miles to Imogene Pass (13,114 feet), and 18 miles to Ouray.  The road is very rough–only try driving it in a 2wd car, if you’re planning to buy a new car.  

Tomboy Road, Telluride

As you ascend Tomboy Road, you’ll quickly gain elevation, driving past thick vegetation and an occasional waterfall.  In the lower corner of the picture above, you can see the wood planks that formed a very basic bridge, over this creek.

Tomboy Road, Telluride

I took this shot through the windshield, as the commercial 4wd jeep tried to slowly pass a road crew.  Yes, they do repair these roads, and with all the rain that had fallen on the day of my visit, they had plenty of work.

Tomboy Road, Telluride

Here’s one reason these roads need so much repair.  There are very few drainage ditches, so when water pours down the mountainside, it runs across the dirt road, creating washouts.  This part of the road was still passable, but a bit frightening, since water was rushing past my tires as I splashed through.

Tomboy Road, Telluride, Bridal Veil Falls

About halfway between the start of Tomboy Road and the ghost town, the road narrows, and suddenly there’s nothing between you and the valley below.  It’s probably the last place you should ever take your eyes off of the road, but you will, as you check out the view of Bridal Veil Falls.  Here, you’re at roughly the same altitude as the falls and the old hydropower plant.

Tomboy Road, Telluride, Tunnel

Traveling further, you reach this short tunnel, blasted out of the rock.  Reach this point, and you’re near timberline.

ghost town mine buildings, tomboy, near telluride

Finally, after an intense uphill drive, you reach a few old buildings, and a wide parking area.  Hop out and explore a bit, keeping in mind that everything you step on may be unstable.

mountains along tomboy road

At this stop, you’re slightly above the tree line, so views of the surrounding peaks are unobstructed (except for those clouds, which were finally starting to break a bit!)

waterfall along tomboy road

I’m not sure if this cascading stream is visible year-round, or just during rainy days.

mine entrance along tomboy road

This mine shaft is next to the main road.  It has been locked, to keep curious idiots from becoming trapped inside.

ghost town mine buildings, tomboy, near telluride

The ruins of old mining buildings provide a great foreground for some creative pictures.

ghost town mine buildings, tomboy, near telluride

ghost town mine buildings, tomboy, near telluride

Tomboy Ghost Town & Mine

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

When you arrive at Tomboy, you’ll find plenty of room to park.  The remnants of the town are nestled in between high mountain peaks, but surprisingly, the landscape is wide open.  Imogene Pass is only a little more than a mile away, so you’re not at the top, but you’re near it.

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

Piles of rock, splintered wood, machinery, glass, rusted metal, concrete foundations, and murky puddles are everywhere.

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

More equipment left to rust in the middle of nowhere.

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

This structure is one of the few that are still standing, however unstable it is.

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

Only the solid concrete core remains here, of what must have been a large building.

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

I’m not sure how many of these puddles will be around on a dry day.  During my visit, streams of runoff (below) were rushing through the middle of the debris.

Tomboy Ghost Town and Mine Ruins

Since Imogene Pass is only about 2 miles away, you should definitely continue on (if only to see what lies on the other side!).  I decided that due to the weather, and with time running short, I would return to Telluride instead.

Tomboy Road, near Telluride, Colorado

Driving back down Tomboy Road is an unanticipated treat.  For the return trip, the driver’s side is facing the valley, giving you the chance to appreciate the view all over again.

ghost town buildings, Tomboy Road, near Telluride, Colorado

You may notice a few more shacks on the trip downhill.  These were near the first ruins, below the town site.

mud puddles, Tomboy Road, near Telluride, Colorado

Plenty of puddles.

Tomboy Road, near Telluride, Colorado, bridal veil falls

There it is, the view that made Telluride famous.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.

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