Take a self-guided tour through one of Colorado’s most elevated mining districts. 

Theodore Renniger’s burros wandered off in August of 1891 while he was prospecting in the Willow Creek Canyon region. Cursing the lost animals, Renniger pursued them until he came across them grazing on the slopes of Bachelor Hill. He sat down and started hammering on an outcropping of rock while still cursing as he was unable to move the burros. He found an amethyst vein with a strong mineral concentration. In order to validate his discovery, he invited Nicholas Creede to visit the vein once more. Creede urged Renniger to clarify his assertion since he was so amazed by the vein. In the vicinity of Renniger’s Last Chance Mine, Creede constructed the Amethyst Mine.

The 17-mile Bachelor Loop winds through the historic mining district of Creede, Colorado. The town was founded in 1892 following the discovery of silver deposits at many locations across the canyon; however, claims to the sites date back to 1883. Creede’s population grew to almost 10,000 during the mining boom that followed, but closures were brought about by a precipitous decline in silver prices the next year. The vast majority of the town’s residents left the area.

Mining eventually came to an end in 1930 and resumed in 1934. Over the years, there has been intermittent mineral exploration in the area.

There is also a climb up the Black Pitch on the route. Wagons and mules hauled ore down the Black Pitch. In the summer, the steep Black Pitch proved too much for the outdated brakes on the wagons, and in the winter, the ice. Consequently, dead animals and numerous damaged wagons gathered at the bottom of the Pitch. To make room for carts traveling both up and down the road, the horses and wagons were torched where they stood.

The grisly spectacle that resulted was dubbed the “Bone Yard” and still produces some animal bones. Eventually, the Black Pitch’s hazards were diminished when a tramway was constructed to transport ore.

Many of the former mining structures of Creede can still be found today; they are located along the loop beneath the basaltic canyon’s dark walls. Along the road are sixteen interpretive pullouts denoted by numbered markers. The loop finishes at the former Bachelor townsite after winding upward through a stately ancient bristlecone forest.

Know Before You Go

The 17-mile Bachelor Historic Loop begins close to the Underground Firehouse and Creede Underground Museum and traces the vein and mining history of the Creede region.

The majority of cars may travel on this well-maintained and in outstanding condition road. But the road north from Creede is fairly steep, and the ascent is much easier with four wheel drive. For an easier climb, two-wheel drive vehicles might prefer to go around the loop backward.

The Creede Historical Society has developed an outstanding guide. The $3 or so that it costs is totally worth it. The guide is available for purchase at the Creede Visitor Center and other Creede shops.

About 1.5 hours should be enough time to do the loop, though longer might be needed if you stop and explore. The mines are on private property and can be dangerous, so please use caution.

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