Sunday, August 21, 2016

Colorado Trail (Segment 8) Copper Mountain to Guller Gulch

Distance: 7 miles roundtrip (Guller Creek), 10.4 miles round trip (part way up Guller Gulch)
Elevation: 9,712 ft - 11,081 ft
Elevation Gain:1,369 (net), 1,852 (cumulative)
Dogs: Off leash
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Tags: #hiking, #coloradooutdoors, #coloradotrail
Nearby hikes: Mayflower Gulch, Shrine Mountain, Shrine Mountain East, Wheeler Lakes, Wilder Gulch

Verdant ground cover dominates this portion of the Colorado Trail. 
Segment 8 of the Colorado Trail starts on the east side of Highway 91 near Copper Mountain Ski Resort, travels through the resort itself, crosses scenic Guller Creek, and travels up Guller Gulch to Janet's Cabin and Searle Pass. From there it travels down to Camp Hale and Tennessee Pass. The total distance is 24.4 miles. You don't have to be a long distance hiker though to enjoy parts of this trail.

The Colorado Trail is accessed up the hill behind the put golf course in the middle of Copper Mountain.
Look for the Colorado Trail sign
On this day hike, we started by the Eagle lift in Copper Mountain and traveled 5.2 miles one way, which took us three quarters of the way up Guller Gulch. Starting at Copper allows you to get a head start if you want to make Searle Pass and return.

First stream crossing
Part of this route crosses open ski slopes with lifts and snow making equipment while the remainder switchbacks up through a deep forest blanketed with chartreuse ground cover. The elusive Calypso Orchid can be found here, not just in a splash of solitary color, but in a whole palate covering the forest floor. Rare Red Columbine also grows between the trees and competes with the orchids for your attention.
Rare and delicate Calypso Orchid
From the Eagle lift, it is 0.6 miles before you enter the woods and 1.2 miles to the first creek crossing on a double planked bridge. You cross under the last ski lift at 2.2 miles and come across the ruins of an old cabin at 3 miles. A half a mile later you cross Jacque Creek and shortly there after Guller Creek and enter Guller Gulch.

Red Columbine
Guller Gulch is a beautiful wide open valley filled with towering Engleman Spruce, lush grasses, and beaver ponds. The red sandy slopes of Jacque Ridge dominate the left side of the gulch and provide a visual marker to progress as one hikes further and further upwards.

Crossing Guller Creek
A few years ago this segment of the Colorado Trail was rerouted and there are several places where the old trail is visible. Keep an eye on the signage and you should be ok. This segment is pleasant not only because of its soft terrain and easy access, but because you can go as little or as far as you like and dogs are welcome, which is always a bonus in an area surround by wilderness.

Heading up Guller Gulch
To get to the trailhead in Copper Mountain itself, exit I-70 at highway 91 and take the immediate left into Copper Mountain (Copper Rd). Wind past the golf course and fire station and then turn left on Ten Mile Circle. There is a large parking structure on the left (accessed via a kiosk on the west side) that is free in the summer. After leaving the parking lot, travel due west on Ten Mile Circle for about 100 yards to large open area dominated by the Eagle lift. The Colorado Trail is just up the hill and is accessed up the wide dirt path to the left of a small putt putt golf course.

Near our turn around point

No comments: