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.


1.(9340ft,mile00) START-END NORTH: Colorado Trail turns left onto FR741C before entering Camp Hale.
2.(10010ft,mile03) Colorado Trail shoulder summit m139.9
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 Pass
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 fork
10.(10060ft,mile14) route comes out at Morton Lake
11.(9950ft,mile15) START-END SOUTH: US24 - road to Morton Lake
 

Approaches

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 Sawatch Range.

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 higher.

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.


 

Dayrides.

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).

History

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.