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 sections of dense tree cover 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 follow 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', so things may take longer than expected.
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 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.
After crossing Eagle Road, you'll carry on for approximately another 5 miles or so to reach Tennessee pass. Most of the way will be a rolling uphil, so make sure that you save enough energy for this section. While not too steep, or too technical, the consistent uphill can be draining.
You'll finish off this section near Ski Cooper and Hwy 24. Take a well earned break, and contemplate the past 25 miles!
Flora & Fauna
Spanning 3,500 feet in elevation, you'll find an abundance of the usual alpine and sub-alpine species. Marmots and wildflowers are perhaps the most common.
Shared By: Hiking Project Staff