The Governor Basin 4×4 road is rated difficult for a couple of reasons. Although the main trail is mostly good off-roading, there are a few narrow sections as well as steep sections with exposed boulders. ATVs, dirt bikes, and high-clearance 4WD vehicles are a must for this road, and only experienced off-road drivers should tackle some of the side trails. Governor Basin is home to Virginius Mine, which is linked to the Revenue Tunnel; Humboldt Mine (a steep climb up near the southern end of St. Sophia Ridge); and Mountain Top Mine, which boasts a still-standing 1912 boarding house. Much of the area is private property, and with the re-opening of Revenue Mine we encountered active mining operations just below Virginius Mine and a locked gate with “no trespassing” at the entrance to Mountain Top Mine. There are several great spots to park and have lunch, and the basin has a network of trails to hike in and around the old mine ruins. Please remember to be very careful. These old mines are being reclaimed and closed off for a good reason… they are dangerous.
Coming down from Governor Basin, we took the side trail over to Sidney Basin. This road was nothing short of brutal with super narrow sections requiring a spotter (that was me ) and an experienced off-road driver. Dropping into the basin takes you down two steep slide areas with exposed boulders and large rocks… one of these areas was comparable to the infamous wall on Poughkeepsie Gulch trail! Boulders protrude into the road and must be navigated with extreme caution. For such a small area, Sidney Basin shows a great deal of past mining activity, but I could find no information on the mines that were located here. Being so near to Governor Basin, the Virginius Mine may have had operations here; and this basin is situated just above the old Atlas Mine as well. Although the short trail to get here was crazy, it’s a beautiful little basin that offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. We took the same road out that we came in on, but the basin road continues on past a large rock slide and an old mining area to eventually reconnect with the Governor Basin Road. The trail is extremely narrow, rocky, off-camber, and rarely used, so we chose to stick with the “good” road.
Getting there: take US Hwy. 550 from Ouray and turn right onto County Road 361 (aka Camp Bird Road) about ¼ of a mile south of town. The road is well-marked with a large sign that reads 6 miles to Camp Bird Mine and 8 miles to Yankee Boy Basin. At 3 miles in, there is a shelf section of road with exposed drop-offs on your left. Keep in mind that there are no guardrails and very few turn-outs for passing. At about 4.7 miles in, the road forks and you should stay right on Ouray CR 26 (continuing left on Ouray CR 361 takes you a short distance to Camp Bird Mine). From this point, the road gets rough and even more narrow in spots with very steep drop-offs, as it is cut right into the cliffside. Once you are off the shelf road, and at about 6.9 miles in, you’ll come to a fork in the road (look for the Ruby Trust Mine sign). Take a left at the fork, and this begins Governor Basin Road (Ouray CR 26A aka Forest Road 853.1C). We made this trip on 9/2/2013, and I have to say that CR 26 is a much better road now that Revenue Mine is active again. Heavy traffic to and from the mine requires more upkeep and widening of the road in spots, so overall it’s a good road… but take it slow in the narrow sections.
IMPORTANT UPDATE, 9/12/2013: Thanks to Steven Knaus for giving new information on the Sidney Basin trail. Although the road has not been blocked, nor the sign removed, this trail is no longer open to motor vehicle traffic. Please see the latest Motor Vehicle Use Map for this area. I feel awful about having traveled the trail now. We went up behind a large group of ATVs taking a tour of the basin! I hope this new information gets out there. We must stay the trail to protect our wilderness areas.