Ghost Trails

I quite enjoy off-trail hiking.

There is something rather satisfying about getting off the beaten path and going where no path is at all.

New areas are explored and crowds are left behind.  With the right skill set, safety level, and personal level of responsibility, some new faces of a well-known area are seen.

And part of this love of exploration? Is finding “ghost trails.”

Ghost Trails are sometimes stumbled upon but are usually listed on old topo maps as a pack trail. 

Old mining trail still in excellent condition. Not on current trail maps.

Ghost Trails should not be counted on, but are bliss when discovered. And they usually go over the very pass you were planning to go over as well.   The technology may have been older in the 1880s, but the skill to read the land has not changed.


In the Ferris Mountain WSA

Ghost Trails are typically old miner trails that became recreational trails.  Years of disuse and often budget cuts mean the trails are no longer maintained.

Trails above or near treeline tend to still be in good condition.  Find yourself in a wooded area or a meadow? The Ghost Trail does live up to its name, and only a faint impression is often left that fades in and out of view.

How to find these Ghost Trails? Simply plan your route in an area that has old mines, homesteads, or other artifacts from near the end of the last century. And find an area that is relatively little use.

In USFS land outside of Lyons, CO.

Throughout the American West, there are many of these Ghost Trails.

When you find them, be it by planning or happenstance, enjoy walking a little bit of forgotten outdoors history.

Besides the (sometimes) easier hiking, you are often led to a memorable place.

Savor the view, enjoy the solitude, and take pleasure that you found this Ghost Trail by looking at a map, planning a trip, and moving on one step at a time.

Saddle at the end of a Ghost Trail in the San Juans.
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6 years ago

We have many such trails around here left over from logging and gas and oil exploration. In fact, there would be few backpacking trails in PA without these, because many of our trails follow these grades with hand built trail tread to connect them.

Matthew Gibble
6 years ago

Falls in line with one of your recent post in the last weeks. Such trails are a treasure. I find myself being selfish in not wanting to tell others about them. But when I am able to take a companion into such areas via these trails it is like a gift to bestow.

6 years ago

Tip for finding ghost trails: throw away green trails maps, they seem to be particularly bad about omitting trails. Then hop on Caltopo and say goodbye to your productivity goals for the day

Liz Flynn
5 years ago

Strangely, the last hiking article I read was about hikes through ghost towns and then I came across this blog post about ghost trails! I am fascinated by forgotten areas, so your post was really interesting to read. The history of many of the ghost towns often relates to the mining industry, so it makes sense that these ghost trails were also once used by miners. There are so many beautiful places that are now forgotten.