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The Treasure of the San Juan Mountains

6 May 2016

Who didn’t dream at least once of finding a secret treasure that could change your life forever? If there is a place where that could happen, then it is the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. These huge, high series of mountains (that belong to the group of the Rocky Mountains and are part of the route of our adventure rally in the Wild West) constitute the biggest mountain range of the state. From here, you can get stunning views from above of the mountains, spot some of the local fauna…or find the mysterious lost treasure that hides somewhere between its peaks and has inspired stories for centuries.

The highly mineralized area surrounding the San Juan Mountains –has  even received the nickname of the Colorado Mineral Belt with its high proportions of minerals like gold and silver. In the early days of Colorado, mining in the area searching in search of gold was one of the main activities.


San Juan Mountains. Photo by Pierce Martin.

From the 1500s on, both French and Spanish discovered the potential of the San Juan Mountains and sent parties of explorers to find the precious metal. It was easy in the beginning, when the first groups arrived. The gold was usually visible in the rivers as the little pieces were being washed down by the water stream. Gold diggers used to pick up these pieces and follow the stream up the mountain to the source of the gold to find the ideal mining location. Many left with as much as they could carry, and their stories were the ones inspiring other people to start chasing the gold in the mountains of Colorado, as a trigger point for the gold fever.

It is said that some parties actually found very large amounts of the precious mineral; however, they were forced to leave it there in secret stashes. Why?  In the first place, the gold was too heavy to be carried among the rugged San Juan Mountains. It was a time without roads or facilities to get through the rough mountains carrying such a heavy load with them. Plus, the warm season was short in the mountain peaks, and they wouldn’t want to be surprised by the cold and the snow that could make them get stuck in the mountain.


Sight from the San Juan Mountains. Photo by Pierce Martin.

In the second place, there was another inconveniency: The Indian tribes living in the mountains were not thrilled by the presence of foreigners in their territorystealing the treasures of their land, and so they used to attack the parties of gold diggers.

Therefore, many explorers were forced to leave their gold behind them and hide it in secret caves and corners of the mountains, with the hope of finding it again when they would come back with better resources to be able to move it out of the mountain area.When these treasures were found by the native Indians, they used to move it to other locations or even to bury it, so the explorers wouldn’t find it when they came back. The Indians were not a gold based society, so they were not craving for the fortune; their motivation was wanting to keep the invaders far away from their mountains.

Perhaps it was because the Indians were hiding them, or perhaps because the explorers never found the spot again where they hid the treasure, but the fact is that many secret gold stashes remained hidden in some places of the mountains. During years people have been finding rests of them in different situations.

The legend of the Treasure Mountain tells the story of a group of French explorers who found one of the hidden treasures, worth millions of dollars. They didn’t have enough resources and the Indian attacks were constant, so they were forced to go back to France, but the leader of the group managed to return to the San Juan Mountains following a map he had drawn the last time. However, we will never know if he reached the gold, as he died drowning in the San Juan River.


The Window Mountain. Photo by daveynin

Many years later, a teenager was lost in the same area of the Treasure Mountain. After days of searching, he was found in poor condition, and he stated having fallen through the ground into a deep hole – full of bags with gold. He had managed to leave the hole and wandered across the mountains searching for help, but he said he could lead to the treasure when recovered. However, he also died shortly after.

Also a young captain of the US Calvary named Stewart claimed to have found a hidden treasure in the San Juan Mountains, on the riverbed. However, when he came back for it with a larger company to retrieve the gold, it was gone. An Indian legend says that Indians saw Stewart finding the gold, and they filled a point of the river with sand and dirt to move the course of the river and confuse the searching party.


Driving into the mountains. Photo by flamouroux.

Are these legends? Just coincidence? Or are there really a number of golden treasures hidden in the Mountains of San Juan?  Join the one and only Wild West Challenge, grab you gold searching material, and live the exploring spirit of the early Americans in a kick ass adventure rally through the Wild West!


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