Monday, April 29, 2013

New Colorado Trail Segment: The Collegiate West Alternative

The nearly 500-mile Colorado Trail between Denver and Durango, already a crown jewel among long-distance hikers, bikers and horse riders as well as thousands of day users, is adding 80 miles of trail through the spectacular Collegiate Peaks, home to a dozen of the state's 14,000-foot mountains.

The new "Collegiate West" forms a western complement to the existing 80-mile stretch of trail on the eastern side of the Collegiate Peaks from Twin Lakes, southwest of Leadville, to south of Monarch Pass, southwest of Salida. It also creates a 160-mile loop we expect to become one of Colorado's most popular multi-day hikes/rides.

Loop hikers can park at access points anywhere along the east or west trail and not have to worry about shuttling vehicles. There are also good resupply spots – Twin Lakes, Buena Vista, Mount Princeton Hot Springs, Monarch Pass, and Salida – along the route.

The new 80 miles, which also are part of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) that runs from Canada to Mexico, won't add to the 486-mile distance for hikers and other enthusiasts tackling The Colorado Trail, but will provide a high-elevation alternative that features such landmarks as the beautiful Hope Pass and Lake Ann.

The Colorado Trail has long shared 234 miles of trail with the CDNST. After the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, which oversaw the building and maintenance of the CDNST, dissolved in early 2012, The Colorado Trail Foundation responded and agreed to provide CTF volunteer stewardship on 80 additional miles as well as add this scenic and fun alternative route to the heart of The Colorado Trail.

The Collegiate West, much of which now follows old logging and mining roads, is being rerouted and rehabilitated as part of a multi-year project involving crews from The Colorado Trail Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Southwest Conservation Corps, and even the Buena Vista Correctional Facility. Trail signs are already in place to aid users along the new route.

5 New Segments that make up Collegiate West:
• Twin Lakes to Sheep Gulch TH, 9.8 miles
• Sheep Gulch TH to Cottonwood Pass Road TH, 25.2 miles
• Cottonwood Pass Road TH to Garden Basin TH, 10.3 miles
• Garden Basin TH to Hancock TH, 14.2 miles
• Hancock TH to Intersection with CT above S. Fooses Creek, 22.6 miles

Highlights of Collegiate West:
• Elevation gain: 18,478 ft.
• Hope Pass
• Lake Ann Pass
• Higher route (and sometimes more exposed)
• Top-of-the-World views
• Tunnel Gulch - Alpine Tunnel
• Great fishing route with numerous lakes and streams
• Nearby 14ers: La Plata, Huron Peak
• Resupply locations: Twin Lakes, Taylor Park Trading Post, Tincup, Saint Elmo, Garfield, Monarch Pass

The Executive Director for the Colorado Trail Foundation, Bill Manning, predicted in the Winter edition of tread lines that the new 160-mile Collegiate Loop is bound to become one of most popular long hikes in Colorado.

For more information on the Colorado Trail and the new Collegiate West Alternative, please click here.


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