Colorado Trail 2021 - Collegiate West
I’ve been behind on the blog game…but I’m back in business and happy you’re here!
My buddy Jacob and I just completed another section of the Colorado Trail. This year we opted to double back and complete the Collegiate West loop of the trail. We have hiked everything from Waterton Canyon (Denver) to Spring Creek Pass (Lake City). Two years ago we had planned to do the west side, but deep snowpack altered our plans and we took the lower East loop at the Twin Lakes split. It had always been our plan to hike both options so we decided to knock out the west this year as it’s likely we will finish the CT next year and we’d like to finish in Durango rather than at an obscure trail junction.
Day zero had us at Twin Lakes on a Friday evening. We opted to stroll in a couple of easy miles and camp, setting us up for a full Day 1 on Saturday.
Quick cruise by the historic Interlaken Hotel site.
Camp at Twin Lakes.
A lovely sunset in the Rockies. We sipped a little whiskey and climbed into tents for the true Saturday morning start.
Day 1 had us cruising up immediately. The Collegiate West option is the same trail as the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) so naturally it spends a large amount of time up high….predominantly over 10,000ft.
We cranked hard out of the gate and soon found ourselves at 12,508ft on Hope Pass. It was a solid climb and the temps were creeping higher by the hour.
Descending Hope Pass.
Hammock lunch. At just over 6 ounces, the hammock is a pretty light luxury item and the ability to get one’s feet up on occasion is absolutely worth the weight.
Camped for the night near the North Fork of Clear Creek - 10,365ft. More hammock time.
Gourmet cold-soak dinner of couscous and corn nuts. Bon appetit.
Day 2 took us up and over Lake Ann Pass. Another gorgeous and cool morning to be hiking.
On the way toward the pass we crossed the trail for Mt. Huron (one of Colorado’s infamous 14ers). We didn’t make the side trip as we had a big day, but because Lord Huron is one of my favorite bands, I needed a pic of the sign.
Mt. Huron from the south.
We also entered the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
Lots of wildflowers in the Collegiates. My mom always took close-ups of flowers when I was a kid so I like to keep that up. Hope you enjoy mom. :)
We made it to Lake Ann (below the pass) around 9:00am. The Rockies are home to many alpine lakes and the feeling of standing alongside one that is only accessible by foot is quite an experience.
So is jumping in. :)
Columbines over Lake Ann as we headed up toward the pass.
Lake Ann Pass - 12,601ft
Jacob crossing a creek.
Our stellar camp for the night near Texas Creek. The water just just beyond the trees and we had another opportunity to rinse off before bed.
…and whiskey ;)
Day 3 sent us up and over Cottonwood Pass.
Lots of smoke in the air from fires across the west. That’s the sun behind the smoke.
Approaching the pass. We got some trail magic from Peaches and her parents at Cottonwood.
Snackville a couple miles beyond the pass.
Still a touch of snow left up high. Colorado is tall.
Fat marmot. We saw a TON of marmots up high.
Camp tonight was at the North Fork of Chalk Creek - 11,116ft. 22 miles today, over the continental divide 4 times, and 15 trillion mosquitos at this campsite. It was a great day.
Up and at ‘em
Many more alpine lakes today.
Today we hiked in the clouds.
As today progressed, we conveniently descended down below treeline. Soon after the storms began blowing in. We camped on the North Fork of the Arkansas River after being rained on for the last hour or so of our walk. Unfortunately this is one of the few nights I didn’t get a photo of camp….because the rain became a bit torrential and we had quite a soggy night. Getting rained on is part of the game.
Day 5 took us up and over Monarch Pass. We buzzed through the ski resort itself as the trail weaved around lifts and signs for certain runs. It’s always strange to be on a resort without snow, but the walking was smooth and we made good time.
We walked along ridges today and saw a rockslide happen in real time which was really wild! We also crossed paths with Second Breakfast and she hiked with us all the way to the Monarch Pass Store. The rain began about halfway through the resort property and really didn’t let up the remainder of the day.
We hung out inside for a bit and had a snack before setting back out…still in the rain. After some deliberation, we decided as a team to push hard and see if we could reach my pickup before nightfall.
About 4:30 the rain let up…and at about 5:15 we hit the parking lot where my pickup was still waiting patiently! It was a 21 mile day in the rain but we were happy to have made miles and reached our goal of completing the Collegiate West portion of the CT! Due to the rain and wind, I missed quite a few cool photo ops. However, the ridges with the elements were stunning. While loading up in my truck, a bikepacker (yes, that’s right…backpacking, but on a mountain bike) came through and we gave away our last couple of snacks. It turned out to be Ryan Van Duzer, a guy from Boulder whose YouTube channel (go check it out) I have watched extensively. It was a cool way to finish the hike for sure! From here we rolled into Leadville for pizza at High Mountain Pies…then onto Frisco for a stop at Outer Range Brewing. Yet another excellent way to finish up an excellent trip with an excellent friend!
Cheers y’all! Now go play outside.
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