One of the hikes at the Bangs Canyon Trailhead is Mica Mines. This hike travels up Ladder Canyon and ends at the mouth of an old mica mine. This is a fun and family friendly hike. Near the beginning there is a stone outcropping, like a large staircase, to go down (and then back up on the return). This means some high steps, so hikers need to be able to rock scramble a bit. After this, the trail is fairly mellow, with no large drop offs. The total length of this out-and-back hike is 2.6 miles. It is a rocky trail and during wet parts of the year there are small streams to cross, so make sure you wear appropriate shoes. Dogs are allowed as long as they are on leash. There are cliffs rising above the hike, and plentiful cottonwood trees, so often the trail has shaded areas along the way. All along the trail you can find bits of mica, especially as you get closer to the mine.
Mica is a translucent mineral that forms in thin sheets that are easy to flake off. It is thought that this vein of mica was discovered around 1895 by Benton Cannon, a mining speculator. The mine was operated by Samuel Grady. In 1911, Douglass Sterrett visited the mine for the U.S. Geological Survey. He wrote that the mica at this site was inconsistent in sizes. At the time large sheets of mica were used to insulate appliances, however he thought that these smaller inconsistent sheets would be used to make abrasives.
Sterrett described the mine in his report, “The mica streak ranges from 1 to 3 feet in thickness and is composed of nearly solid masses of mica crystals. These range from less than 1 inch to over 1 foot in length and are more commonly arranged in tufts and radiating groups. In places, quartz, feldspar, and black tourmaline are associated with the mica. Rosettes of radiated mica crystals cover the south wall of the open cut for a space 12 feet long by 8 feet high. The exposure here gives an impression of a very thick mica streak, but an examination shows that the cut has opened the ‘vein’ along its wall. The full thickness of the streak is probably 3 feet or more.”
If you haven’t yet explored this area, you should put it on your bucket list for this summer.