Hiking to Monte Cristo

In the 1890s, Monte Cristo was booming. At the time it was believed the area would become the largest lead-silver mining area in the Western Hemisphere. The year 1896 was yet another successful year until floods late in the year destroyed railroad tunnels and tracks. 1897 was a repeat of 1896, another prosperous year followed by massive flooding. Over the next couple of years, rebuilding from the floods in addition to metal impurities at the Monte Cristo concentrator nearly shut down the mining business. By 1900 most of the miners had left Monte Cristo, following the mining booms in neighboring districts. Further investigations concluded the mineral-rich deposits were only surface deep and it was not cost-effective to mine past 500 feet into the ground. All mining activity ceased in 1907.

The town slowly shut down and became a very small tourist destination. In 1980 the road to the town was washed out followed by a fire in 1983 that burned down the last remaining business, a lodge. That same year the Monte Cristo Preservation Association stepped in to preserve what remained of the small town.

Few buildings remain standing and the four-mile road to Monte Cristo has been shut down to vehicular traffic. What remains is an unmaintained gravel road frequented by hikers and mountain bikers. The washed out bridge has been replaced by a large fallen tree for hikers to cross and in some areas the road has been completely washed out and hikers have created detours to continue toward Monte Cristo.

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