Monday, December 24, 2012

Corral Creek Bushwhack Snowshoe

Distance:  5.6 miles available, we did a 2.2 mile bushwhack
Elevation: 10,662 ft-11,079 ft
Elevation Gain: 417 ft (net) 681 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes, in the parking area
Dogs: Off leash
Date Snowshoed: 22 December, 2012

Playing in the Corral Creek Basin
Corral Creek Basin is located north of Vail Pass behind a small ridge that separates I-70 from the southern extent of the Gore Range. Snowshoeing this area is surprisingly quiet, serene, downright worthwhile. The downside is the trail is part of the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area and there is a $6 per person fee to use it.

The trailhead is visible from the road and contains a small sign.
The trip begins at the Vail Pass Rest Area. During the winter there is a Forest Service kiosk and a handful of rangers standing by to collect your fee. Parking is authorized only on the south side of I-70 in the large parking lot that is part of the rest area. 

The first 0.5 miles is in the trees.  There were at least two tracks in this area and folks tried to find their way.
The trail head and kiosk is across the highway and 10 yards up a snowy slope. Pray that someone has been there before you because the blue blazes that are supposed to mark the trail exist for only the first quarter of a mile or so and many of these are old, cracked, and barely visible. At one point we saw 4 blazes dangling from the same tree like Christmas ornaments. This route could use a little maintenance!

The junction between the east and west spurs.  The first people through just decided it was here.  There was no markers.
On the map, this trail is a 0.5 mile slog up the ridge that connects to a 2.3 mile long trail that traverses both east and west along the Corral Creek Basin. The trail extends roughly 1.1 miles to the west and heads uphill while the eastward extent heads 1.2 miles and down into the basin. Depending upon your energy level, you can do all or part of this route.

Heading through the pristine snow on the westward spur
On this, our first trip we decided to head westward and uphill for maximum cardio. The trail was well tracked and the views down the basin of the the Ten Mile Range were pleasant indeed. It was not long, however before the track we were following headed across the basin and up the side of the ridge to the north. We debated whether to follow this trail or to continue westward and start breaking trail.  Without blazes we really did not know which route to take. The map shows the trail eventually curving northward but exactly where was difficult to discern.

Looking back down the basin at the Ten Mile Range.  With open spaces like this, who needs a trail?
We decided to take the the well tracked path because it descended into a beautiful meadow and headed up the far hill where we knew there would be views to the south. This turn was definitely off route but was a fun bushwhack none-the-less. It was not until we were half-way up the far hill when we looked back and could see a flat shelf continuing westward from the spot we had turned off. The trail undoubtedly stays on this shelf and we eventually saw some snowshoers head that way. 

Our bushwhack as we turned off the main trail and headed across the meadow to the bald hill in the distance.  Our turn around point was half-way up that hill just below treeline.  It was quite steep.
Crossing Corral Creek
When we returned to the parking area, we also noticed a small, bare hill further west, which is undoubtedly the destination for the northern extent of the route we were on. Without blazes or a tracked trail, staying on route in winter can be tricky but that can also be part of the fun. Normally I would not blog such an experimental experience but this area was so pleasant that staying on route is not necessary that important. With open meadows beckoning I am usually tempted to frolic anyway. 

Looking back across the meadow
Corral Creek is a snowshoe worth doing and I will return to try and stay on route as well as take the eastward route.  I may not do it again this year because I hate paying fees when there are so many free trails in the Copper Mountain area. A perennial favorite in the same area is Mayflower Gulch.

Looking at the Ten Mile Range from our turn around point

1 comment:

Linda said...

Mmmm, just basking in your sunshine! it's in short supply here.