“An awesome, unique high alpine hike to over 12,000', but a steep finish.
— Nick Wilder
Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers
This is an incredible journey over TWO passes near 12,000' with views galore. It is long and committing. Many good camp spots exist for backpackers. There are plenty of water sources if you have a filter.
Need to Know
Because you spend over 3 miles around 12,000' between the two passes (with no escape possible), this is a particularly bad place to be in a thunderstorm.
In the SE corner of the ski area overflow parking lot, look for a bridge crossing the Tenmile Creek and/or the Colorado Trail information sign. Rather than crossing the creek, the trail heads directly south keeping the creek on your left-hand side. In a short distance, it crosses over highway 91 and continues on great rolling singletrack with several bridge crossings and a few short downhill sections as it crosses the ski resort. There are a few times as you cross the resort that the trail merges with maintenance roads for short distances - continue on keeping your eye out for CT trail signs.
The trail then begins to enter heavier treed sections via nice wide switchbacks. As you leave the ski area, the trail bends south and heads up Guller Creek, which you'll cross a few times. Most crossings have bridges. You'll remain along Guller Creek for about 2.5 miles while you chew up about 1000' of elevation gain.
Next, you'll hike a few long switchbacks to climb your way out of treeline and into the lower basin below Elk Mountain. Once above treeline the trail tends back south, giving you your first view of Searle Pass. The pass is only approximately a mile away (500 vertical feet) at this time but, remember you're at 12000'. At the pass, enjoy the views, a snack, and a well-deserved break. This is also a good point to turn around if weather conditions, or physical fitness are questionable; bearing in mind that the return to Copper Mountain is 7 miles and incorporates a short climb back into the ski area boundary.
The CT between Searle and Kokomo Passes is a very unique, timberline traverse, punctuated with short climbs. The hike high point is 1/2 mile east of Kokomo Pass. Again, offering stunning views to the south and Climax Mine; and a second opportunity to assess conditions and fitness. This is the final commitment point.
Descend 1/2 mile to Kokomo Pass, and continue a 5-mile descent to Camp Hale. There are absolutely stunning views to the west of the Holy Cross Ridgeline including Mountain of the Holy Cross in the first mile below Kokomo Pass.
3.5 miles below Kokomo Pass, cross Cataract Creek. Below this crossing the trail becomes pretty steep and loose, and watch your ankles. A mile below the creek crossing bottom out at the southeastern corner of Camp Hale on road 714, East Fork Eagle Road.
Flora & Fauna
Spanning 3,500 feet in elevation, you will find an abundance of the usual alpine and sub-alpine species. Marmots and wildflowers are perhaps the most common.