That wagon road over Georgia Pass became mostly obsolete when the
Denver, South Park, & Pacific Railroad was built through Kenosha Pass, but
4-wheelers and mountain bikers still enjoy using the jeep tracks that remain.
The Colorado Trail crosses a couple of dirt roads on Georgia Pass;
I'm not sure which one is the original toll road. Several ATV riders were enjoying
the jeep tracks today when I was up on the pass this morning.
The CT crosses two jeep roads on Georgia
Pass. Mt. Guyot (13,370 feet) is in the background.
There were several hikers, runners, and cyclists on this section
of the Colorado Trail today, too. Two days ago on Segment 5 I saw only one
person besides Jim and one of our
friends. The trail certainly wasn't crowded today, however, and
I had fun talking with some of the folks I saw.
Two of them were a young couple who are thru-cycling the CT from Denver
to Durango. They've cycled several parts of the trail previously
but haven't done the entire ~ 485 miles until now. I saw them on
the approach to Georgia Pass while they were stopped to work on
their bikes (below) and get something to eat. That's when we had a brief
Young couple thru-cycling the CT this month
I continued over the pass and turned around a mile below it.
While I was ascending back up to the pass on that side, the
couple zipped by me on their way down toward Breckenridge.
Fortunately, we saw each other at the same time and they slowed
down so I could get off the trail. So did three other cyclists I
saw on my way back down to the Jefferson Lake trailhead.
Warning to hikers, runners, and equestrians:
This is a very
popular segment with mountain bikers! I was hoping I wouldn't
"run into" very many of them on a weekday but it's
summer and they're out there in droves. When I ran
this whole segment in 2006 there were lots of kamikaze riders in
the last long downhill miles into Breckenridge. I won't ever
forget how recklessly some of them were riding.
MORE VIEWS, LESS DISTANCE
At thirty-three miles in length, Segment 6 is the longest of the
twenty-eight CT segments.
I was faster and had better knees when
I ran and hiked the whole thing from Kenosha Pass to
2006. Now that I'm not supposed to be running
any more, it's impossible for me to hike that many miles in one
day (I'm not a backpacker and never will be).
Three back-packers and their dog heading
westbound toward the pass today;
they are taking four days to hike this
I knew I'd have to do an out-and-back hike today on only part of
Segment 6 to break it down into a manageable size. I really
wanted to climb up to Georgia Pass. It's above treeline at
11,880 feet elevation and has scenic views of the
nearby peaks, including 13,370-foot Mt. Guyot, along the
Continental Divide, as well as distant views of the Tenmile
Range, Mt. Evans Wilderness, and South Park.
Reviewing the trail maps, I saw that it's a little over 12½
miles from our campsite on the southeast side of US 285 to the
pass. That would be over 25 miles total in an out-and-back,
still too much for me to hike during daylight in one day.
< sigh > I sure miss being able to cover more ground by
View west of Georgia Pass toward
Breckenridge and the Tenmile Range
Fortunately, there are three or four other access points
in Segment 6 between Kenosha Pass and Breckenridge so it's
relatively easy to break this long section into smaller ones. Two
trailheads are within a reasonable distance of
our campground on the east side of the pass. If Jim could drive me to the Jefferson Lake Road
access point (a 2WD road), I'd have only six miles one way on
the CT to reach Georgia Pass.
Twelve miles total -- that's better! I'd have enough time
to drop down the western side of the pass a little ways if I
wanted and still have time to kill, enjoying the views from the
JEFFERSON LAKE TRAILHEAD
Yesterday we took an exploratory drive down US 285 to Jefferson
Lake Road. We knew from reading the CT guidebook that there is a
Pike National Forest fee collection point along this road but we
naively thought the kind rangers might let us drive in to see
where the trailhead is and drive right back out:
Nope! This is a popular playground and they had no way of
knowing if we'd ever come back out or if we'd stay and enjoy
their forests and lake all day, so we would have to
pay the day use fee of $5 even if all we wanted was the privilege of seeing
OK, never mind. We asked enough questions to determine that the road
was fairly good to the trailhead, then turned around at the pay
station. We waited until this morning to pay our $5. Jim made
sure to get a dated receipt so he didn't have to pay again when he
came back to retrieve me in the afternoon.
I got on the trail about 7:30 AM. The elevation at the trailhead
is 10,130 feet:
CT trailhead on Jefferson Lake Rd.
I didn't take Cody with me because of the high temperatures
predicted and the relative lack of water in this six-mile section. The
only good creek is close to the trailhead. I didn't know about two
little ponds off the side of the trail at approximately one mile
and 5½ miles where he could have
The temperature at our campground at Kenosha Pass (10,000 feet) was already in
the mid-50s when we got up this morning and would reach 80°
F. by the afternoon. It felt pretty warm in the sun on the trail
all day, even at my high point of 11,907 feet (per my GPS) on Georgia Pass.
little pond about a mile up the trail
That's better than the 100-degree
temps in mile-high Denver, however. I bet our campground fills
up this weekend with folks trying to find some relief in the
mountains! Jim's very concerned about how hot it's going to be
for his race near Pine, CO tomorrow. It's not as low as Denver
but it's lower than Kenosha Pass.
Just beyond the trailhead I dropped
down to Jefferson Lake Creek, my lowest elevation today (9,980
feet). There is a long, narrow wooden bridge over the water or
you can easily ford it when it's this low:
Then I began a steady climb through
Although there are many aspens at 10,000 +/- feet farther east
in this segment, there aren't any in these six miles.
The first couple of miles are fairly rocky, then become
significantly smoother up to and beyond the pass.
There are some neat boulders about two miles up the trail, with
scenic views of the Divide, Jefferson Lake, and mountains to the
Approaching the boulder area from the east
Above and below: looking toward the Divide and Jefferson
Lake (see red arrow)
Although I'd forgotten some of the terrain in this segment, that's one part of the trail I remembered clearly from four
After a rocky ascent in the first
couple miles of the section I hiked today, the next two miles
are flatter and smoother west of the boulder area. The trail undulates up and down
gradually through pine forests as it traverses the shoulder of a mountain:
Just before entering the more sparse sub-alpine forest the view
to the southwest offers glimpses of the Continental Divide. Some
of these 12,000-13,000-foot peaks still have snow on top:
I enjoyed the forested areas, but now I was getting to the
After about 4½ miles I had
increasingly magnificent views of the
mountains forming the Continental Divide as I climbed
higher and higher into the alpine zone:
Pointy Mt. Guyot serves as a beacon in the distance for trail
users who know the CT crosses Georgia Pass to the right of the peak:
I could see down into the valley to the east of the Divide as I
gradually ascended the CT. When I saw remnants of snow near the
trail I was even more sorry Cody wasn't with me. He sure would
have enjoyed those snow banks!
The trail is fairly smooth in the tundra area. Runners and
cyclists who aren't as interested in the scenic views as I am can
move quite fast on either side of Georgia Pass. I'm glad I was
taking my time and could savor the beauty surrounding me.
I had total solitude until I reached the young couple on their
bikes. They were stopped at the intersection with the Jefferson
Someday I'd like to do the 11-mile loop that does up the CT like
I did, heads north to the lake, and then back down to Jefferson
I walked a little ways north on that trail to get this picture:
I wasn't able to see Jefferson Lake from that vantage point.
It's beyond those ridges.
I returned to the CT and continued heading west toward Mt. Guyot and
Georgia Pass. Except for some deep ruts that have been bypassed
by a new renegade trail to the left, the footing is still fairly smooth
through the tundra. The ground was very pretty covered in
Cairns and tall poles mark the trail as it approaches and
crosses the pass. At the top, westbound trail users start to see
the Tenmile Range and other mountains surrounding Breckenridge
at the end of this segment:
From the pass, it's another 20.6 miles to Breckenridge on the
CT. There is a net elevation loss from the high point on the
pass (11,880 feet per the CT guide, 11,907 feet per our GPS) to
9,200 feet at the trailhead in Breckenridge. It's not all
downhill, though; there is another 11,150-foot ridge to
cross after Georgia Pass.
These photos are going down the other (west and north) side of the pass
for about a mile:
I took the next three photos after I turned around and went back
up to the pass. I love the views of the north side of Mt. Guyot
from this direction, too:
Going eastbound, the last few yards up to the pass is a guessing
game if you haven't been here before. Kinda looks like you're
going to go off the edge into oblivion:
Upon reaching the high point on the pass, however, you start to
see all the mountain ranges to the east:
In the mile on either side of the pass I saw several cyclists,
hikers, ATVers, and one runner, then no one again the last five
miles back down to Jefferson Creek Road. That was kind of odd
but I enjoyed having the trail all to myself for ten miles
I love being above treeline so I can have panoramic views of the
mountains and valleys. I took my time up there, savoring the
expansive views, the colorful mountains, the bright green
grasses, the wildflowers, the interesting rocks and cairns, the
clear blue sky and warm breezes . . .
And yeah, I took many more photos than these! It was a gorgeous
day and I was in my element.
The higher I walked, the happier I got. I climbed steadily and
felt strong. Despite all the photos I took, I hiked faster than
I would have with Cody -- but I missed his company. I
should have just loaded up his pack with enough water and taken
him with me.
THE RETURN TRIP
The hike back down from the pass was faster with a tailwind, net
elevation loss, and fewer pictures.
The scenery on a trail usually looks different
going the opposite way. If someone is doing this whole section
point-to-point I think the views are a little better going westbound from
Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge. That seems to be the more popular
direction with other trail users, too.
A small pond in the tundra reflects the
beautiful blue sky.
Above and below: dropping back down
through the sub-alpine zone
On the way back down I took some time to add rocks to cairns
-- just can't resist doing that when I have some spare time!
I reached the trailhead forty-five minutes before the time I
told Jim I'd aim to get back. I killed some time by walking down
to a nearby parking area to use the bathroom and watch folks
fish in a little lake:
I'm sorry I didn't spend more time up on the pass but I didn't
know how long it'd take me to get down and I didn't want Jim to
have to wait for me in the hot sun. Goodness knows, he's wasted
enough time at trailheads the last ten years when I've
underestimated how much time it would take me to complete a
section of trail! I rarely have the luxury of hiking right back
to our campsite like I did two days ago on Segment 5.
Interesting rock that looks like it has
I ended up drinking only about half of the water in my 100-oz. Camelbak
bladder, rationing it to make sure I had enough for the entire
trek. It's impossible to tell how much is left without taking my
pack off and extracting the bladder, which I rarely do.
Have I mentioned how much
I regret not taking Cody with me?? (Only about three times
already.) Although he hasn't worn his
pack much lately, he could have managed today's hike with a
couple liters of water in it to supplement the water in the two
ponds I didn't know about. I also had enough water left over that he
could have had some of mine and then gotten water in Jefferson Lake
Creek while we waited for Jim near the end.
Cody will definitely be
with me on most of my hikes the rest of this trip.
LAST TIME TO GEORGIA PASS?
Every time I get "high" on a hike like this (high in elevation
and high in spirits) I have a little nagging worry that I may
never get to that particular location again because of my
deteriorating knees. They did fine today but I there's always
the thought that it might be my last time up there ever.
Will we be back before I have to get knee replacements? Will I
be able to climb up there after getting knee
replacements? Folks like my friend Heidi give me hope that I can
continue to climb mountain trails after knee surgery but there
aren't any guarantees.
One last look today at Mt. Guyot and Georgia
Pass . . .
Will this be the last time I hike to Georgia Pass? I hope not,
but the thought that it might be is why I wanted to remain above treeline for a while
in case. I thoroughly enjoyed today's little adventure.
Next entry: running and working the North Fork
50-miler in Pine, CO, a fine inaugural event
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil