Backpack the Colorado Trail: Copper Mountain to Hagerman Pass
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Added by Matthew Eaton
- Alpine Tundra Hiking
- Multi-Day/Night backpacking (4days / 3nights)
- 39 mile (with options for 25.4 and 13.6 miles each)
The Colorado Trail (CT) runs for 483 miles from Denver to Durango, crossing through eight mountain ranges and passing through six wilderness areas. There are great resources on completing a thru-hike of the CT; this post is about Segments 8-9 of the CT from Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass.
These two segments are easily accessible for an extended weekend, and can be completed over either three or four nights on the trail. I made this a loop hike of sorts and quazi-shuttled myself. I made the town of Leadville, CO my base area and left my jeep at the local hostel. From there, I road the Lake County Link of the Summit Stage bus line ($5 one-way) to Copper Mountain, where I off-loaded and began my trek.
Segment 8 from Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass is 25.4 miles long and moves from Dillon Ranger District to Holy Cross Ranger District, and also crosses into the Holy Cross Wilderness area. Note that special requirements exist within designated wilderness areas, best to check with the local ranger district for latest status on the trail and camping requirements. If you’d like to spend one night out of your tent, you can reserve (in advance), Janet’s Cabin, through huts.org.
You should expect to climb ~4,000ft on Segment 8 as you climb into alpine tundra, traverse wild flower laden meadows, and cross over two mountain passes before beginning your descent.
History buffs will love this next part of the hike. Before you reach Tennessee Pass, you will reach Camp Hale, a U.S. Army training facility, which became the 10th Mountain Division, which is now mostly ruins.
Leave this historical area and begin your climb again to reach Tennessee Pass. If you wish to end your hike here, you can relatively easily return to Leadville. Leadville Hostel owners will offer you a shuttle, or you many people hitchhike.
Continue on across Tennessee Pass and hike deeper into the Holy Cross Wilderness on Segment 9. Segment 9 from Tennessee Pass to Hagerman Pass Road is shorter at only 13.6 miles. There are also huts accessible in this segment by reservation: Point Breeze Cabin, Continental Divide Cabin and Uncle Bud’s Hut. You will gain ~2,300ft of elevation gain for this segment as you cross into the Sawatch Mountain Range.
At the end, you can either hike into town, arrange a shuttle from the Hostel, or again rely on passing vehicles who are often happy to give you a ride.
Enjoy a few days on the CT and the interesting people you will meet along the way.
- Water Filter
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