Colorado Trail: m148.8
(section: Camp Hale - Long's Gulch)
It may be difficult to think of this route as a summit. Much
of it meanders through the forest with many small dips and
rollers. But it fulfills the criteria for inclusion as a
summit point. There are two approaches to a point that is at
least 500ft higher than the beginning of the approaches.
Furthermore you can't legally get any higher without going
onto a more difficult type of surface. Illegally - that's
another matter. You could get to a much higher point on a
trail in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
The northern approach has been written up in mountain biking
guide books and is a very popular route. The southern
approach shown below is an extremely obscure route that is
virtually impossible to find from the bottom.
START-END NORTH: Colorado Trail turns left onto FR741C
before entering Camp Hale.
2.(10010ft,mile03) Colorado Trail shoulder summit
3.(9970ft,mile03) Colorado Trail crosses US24 on its
way to Tennessee Pass. Profile turns down US24.
4.(10424ft,mile08) CT Trailhead at top of Tennessee
5.(10420ft,mile10) CT crosses Wurts Ditch Road
6.(10400ft,mile11) CT crosses Lily Lake Road
7.(10390ft,mile11) CT crosses west fork of Tennessee
Creek on bridge
8.(10500ft,mile12) TOP: profile leaves Colorado Trail
by turning hard right onto a jeep trail
9.(10350ft,mile13) profile stays right/downhill at
10.(10060ft,mile14) route comes out at Morton Lake
11.(9950ft,mile15) START-END SOUTH: US24 - road to
From North. The Colorado Trail leaves the south end of
Camp Hale by contouring up a hill and then staying very close to
the Co24 up Tennessee Pass for
a couple of miles. Then the trail crosses the road and also
Tennessee Creek on two narrow, flattened logs. If you want to
ride across, go ahead. As for me, I think I'd rather just watch.
During August its just a single step across the creek and on the
other side waits some of the most pleasant mountain biking the
Colorado Trail has to offer.
The trail skirts around a low, forested ridge and enters a low
valley separate from the Tennessee Pass route. The Sawatch Range
in the distance is not at all the mighty wall, as in so many
other places. Here it's more the edge of a saucer, surrounding
verdant wetlands. In my opinion this is the most beautiful spot
along the entire route.
The biking is equally agreeable: no rocks, no deep ruts, just
cruising along the valley floor. Eventually the trail does start
to climb as it enters the forest on the east side of the valley
and meanders to the top of Tennessee Pass.
The Colorado Trail continues on the same side of the parking lot
just a few feet further south. Here it also picks up the
Continental Divide Trail, arriving from the east side of
Tennessee Pass. Continuing on the west side, a wide single track
leads through the forest that is also heavily used by walkers.
Fast progress is possible. Between Tennessee Pass and the summit
point, the trail crosses two dirt roads Wurts Ditch Road, and
then Lily Lake Road. Both intersections are elaborately signed
in all possible directions, with Colorado Trail and Continental
Divide Trail signs. These roads offer more bikable ways back
down without turning back or using the more obscure southern
approach described here.
Progressing further away from the Lily Lake road, sections of
the trail now and then contain more rocks and even a few
sections that are better walked. Glimpses of the mountains are
limited to when the trail crosses a creek tumbling down from the
A small sign in the forest stating "old Mine", is the
last chance to make this into a loop ride experience. This is
also the highest point on the route.
From South. (described downwards). From here the rest
of the Colorado Trail to the wilderness boundary contains few,
if any, easily ridable sections and leads about a 100 feet
Turning to search for the way back down, the route follows a
wide track to an old car wreck in front of a shack. Is that what
is meant by Old Mine ? Well, maybe there wasn't enough room on
the sign to say "Old Car Wreck and decrepit shack". In
any case, it is definitely clear, and that shows that we have
not strayed within the wilderness boundaries.
As an aside, wouldn't it be nice if there was something in
between wilderness and junkyard, a designation for public land
where reasonable, nondestructive uses such as bicycling are
allowed, but garbage and junk cars would be taken away (?)
Back to the route. Down valley from the car wreck the wide trail
soon turns into an abandoned road. Actually it turns into
something more than abandoned, super abandoned or ultra super
abandoned. It is obvious that somebody, or more likely or a
whole group of people have taken it upon themselves to help
along the "abandoning process" by placing whatever
logs and obstacles they could find across the path. This is
obvious because of the regular perpendicular placement, and
because many of them have smooth sawed ends. I could only
speculate about the reason for this. First I thought that a
something like this was just abound crazy enough for a miner,
who thought he found something worth digging out back at the old
car wreck. Then later it occurred to me that this could also be
the result of the private land owners surrounding Morton Lake,
who took it upon themselves to keep the public land free of ATVs
and other vehicles, so that they could enjoy their peace and
quiet around the lake.
After a short distance I discovered that it was actually much
easier to ride in the forest next to the obstructed trail. This
area was clear of obstacles, since they had all been moved onto
the trail. After several miles, taking a right at a junction
leads to a short rocky sections where no additional artificial
abandonment was deemed necessary, and soon the trail ends on an
excellent surface all weather dirt road, amongst the cottages
and houses on Morton Lake. Continuing left on the dirt road
leads to Co24 at its lowest spot between Tennessee
Pass and Leadville.
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED / SINGLE TRACK / BIKE AND HIKE
Colorado Trail m148.8(sh) , Tennessee
Pass , additional out and back : just north of Camp Hale
> Co24 south > begin Colorado Trail where it crosses from
east to west north of pass > Tennessee Pass(shp) >
Colorado Trail m148.8(sh) <> out and back to border of
wilderness area >> down Long's Gulch > Morton Lake >
Tennessee Pass > Co24 back to starting point: 36.2 miles with
2930ft of climbing in 4:53hours (VDO MC1.0 m3: 11.8.22).
Cycling: An early guide book that described part of
the northern approach of this route as an out and back ride
between Tenneseee Pass and the Collegiate Peaks wilderness area,
was Linda Gong and Gregg Bromka's "Mountain Biker's Guide
to Colorado", first published in 1994.