Finding Copper City
Date of Adventure: October 4, 2015
In September of 2015 we were contacted by the Northwest Trails Association with a request to write an article on ghost towns. We were happy to oblige, and we used the article as an excuse to take a weekend getaway to the east side of the Cascades with the intention of hitting two easy to reach ghost towns to include in the article. The first of these two towns was Copper City.
We got up early, and drove to Enumclaw where we stopped for a nice breakfast before heading up and over Chinook Pass. We were treated to spectacular views of Mt. Rainier from the top of the pass, and we continued down the east slope of the cascades until we reached our turn of at US Forest Road 1800. We travelled another 20 miles or so until we saw the sign for Copper City on our right.
It’s hard to miss the trailhead to copper city thanks to this wooden sign that was created and put in place by a local Eagle Scout. It is easily spotted from FSR 1800, and it sits along the old mine to market road that leads into the Copper City town site.
We walked a short distance up the mine to market road to reach Copper City. The grade was very gentle and the walking was easy.
After we turned a corner we arrived at the partially collapsed structure that served as Copper City’s bunkhouse. The bunkhouse is slowly being reclaimed by the landscape
A notice on the bunkhouse clearly instructed visitors that they are to leave structures, ruins, and artifacts as they find them. These rules apply at all historic sites on US Forest Service managed land whether explicitly posted or not. This is also part of our basic code of conduct for adventuring.
We began to inspect the bunkhouse more closely. Parts of the bunkhouse walls were still standing and looked solid. Names carved into the wood indicated that not all visitors had been heeding the notice on the front of the structure. If you choose to visit historic sites, please don’t follow the example set by these people.
Parts of the roof on the bunkhouse had not fared well during the years that had passed since the structure was built.
The backside of the building’s upper storey was in better shape than we expected considering it had slid off the lower storey and onto the ground.
There was quite a bit of wood missing from the roof of the bunkhouse.
Bent and rusted metal flashing covered the only section of the roof that was completely intact.
In a stand of trees behind the bunkhouse an old cook stove was laying in the mud.
We left the bunkhouse and crossed an open field to the nearby remains of the old ore mill.
All of the machinery that had once been used in the mill was moved to other mining sites in the first half of the 20th century. All that remains now is some of the old timbers, concrete foundations, and a lot of crushed rock and ore.
We did find a rusty bit or two scattered about the mill ruins.
We found a small waterfall that was flowing out of the hillside and over a log at the mill site. We did not even consider drinking the water.
As we neared the top of the slope, a small, wooden section of the mill was peeking out from under a pile of crushed rock and ore. As with most mining mill sites, this leftover material is highly contaminated with arsenic, and other toxic minerals. Handling this material or inhaling dust at these sites is not recommended.
Reaching the top of the slope, we turned to look back down over the length of the mill site.
Beside a trail at the top of the slope, an interpretive sign showed the mill as it appeared in the early 1900’s. The sign noted that operations had ended at the site in 1942.
We hiked back toward the bunkhouse via a different route. The structure looked tiny sitting among the large trees that surrounded it.
We took a few more photos of the bunkhouse remains before heading back to the car.
Thank you for reading about our adventure finding the Apex Mine Lower Tram Ruins. If you choose your own adventure to this spot*, we hope you will drop us a line.
*If you decide to enter an abandoned mine (and we are not suggesting you do) remember that exploring mines presents many different dangers than your average hike. Make sure you do your research and are properly equipped before you go.