Sunday, August 9, 2015

2001 Hiking The Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail, now over 25 years old, stretches from Denver to Durango with over 500 miles of trail through seven national forests, six wilderness areas, five river systems, and across eight mountain ranges, traveling through ecosystems from Plains to Alpine. Its altitude reaches 13,334 feet above sea level, and much is above 10,000 feet, though most of the trail has grades of 10% or less.

Numerous 14ers are accessible from the trail. Camping is allowed on public land. The trail is open to hikers, backpackers, equestrians, runners, llama trekkers, and except in wilderness areas, mountain bikers. The trail's 500 or so miles are divided into 28 segments which range in elevation gain from 1220 feet to over 4500 feet. The entire trail gains over 76,000 feet in elevation. Each segment is detailed in their exceptional guidebook, The Official Guidebook: The Colorado Trail, and they also have a CD-ROM map. Both are available on their website. The trail was built and is maintained by the Colorado Trail Foundation, a non-profit volunteer group over 25 years old. The CTF supported 17 week-long volunteer trail crews and three weekend crews during 2001. They also have an "Adopt-A-Trail" segment program, a unique supported "Treks on the Trail" program, week-long hikes over trail segments where hikers only have to carry daypacks, educational courses (outdoor workshops), and more.

I participated in one of their volunteer trail programs at Copper Mountain in 2001 and that volunteer week is detailed here. On our day off, some of us AHS volunteers chose to day hike the trail from Dillon back to Copper Mountain.

The trail heading up from Gold Hill Trailhead (segment 7 of the CT) travels through lovely forest and eventually gives occasional views of the Breckenridge area. A total elevation gain of 3600 feet will take us to the summit, well above timberline at 12,440 feet. Lovely meadows of wildflowers predominate the upper areas just before timberline is reached.

Once past timberline the scenery changes dramatically.

From the summit, the view to the south shows Colorado Highway 91 heading over Fremont Pass to Leadville. The lakes to the right of the highway are the tailing ponds from the Climax Molybdenum Mine and a few ski slopes can be seen on the back side of Copper Mountain in the right of the photo below.

Also from the summit, the ski slopes of Copper Mountain Resort are obvious to the west, and the resort buildings can also be seen just to the left of the double ribbon of road snaking along the left side of the photo which is Interstate 70. The Colorado Trail currently travels down the main road of the Copper Mountain resort for over a mile. The project I worked on was one of many week-long crews working on an elaborate reroute to take the Colorado Trail across the ski slopes and off the road.

The trail down to Copper Mountain traversed the top of the ridge line for quite a distance before finally switching back north and heading down through rock slide areas and finally through more lush forest. 

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