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blue James Peak (13,294') from Corona Pass Road

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Trail

8.6 mile 13.8 kilometer out and back
Singletrack
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 2,102' 641 m
Descent: -2,101' -640 m
High: 13,157' 4,010 m
Low: 11,125' 3,391 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 42% (23°)

Dogs

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Map Key

Trail shared by Ray Watts

Start just below tree line, climb to and traverse Rogers Pass, and then ascend the north face of James Peak.

Ray Watts

Features Views · Wildflowers

This hike is in the USFS James Peak Protection Area (slightly less protected than a Wilderness Area). The Forest Service web site for the first section is here.

Overview

Hike the Continental Divide and climb a 13,294' summit in an out-and-back hike with great views.

This is a hike in three sections:

1. A gradual climb on easy trail from the trailhead to Rogers Pass, which is a low point on a wide pass variously known as Corona Pass, Rollins Pass, and Rogers Pass. The Winter Park - Mary Jane ski area is directly across the valley. Can you identify those runs that you skied last winter? From the pass, look east across Denver to the Great Plains.

2. A level traverse along a rocky ridge leads to James Peak on a section of the Continental Divide Trail. The marmots will let you know that you have been seen.

3. Continue on the Continental Divide Trail for a switchback climb up the north face of James Peak on good trail with some loose rock.

Most of the hike is across tundra, with excellent views to the north, east, and west (and south from the summit).

Need to Know

There are no creek crossings; water is scarce after snow patches melt.

Description

Start at the Riflesight Notch historic railroad trestle on west side of Corona Pass (also called Rollins Pass) Road. The road begins at U.S. Hwy 40 near the Winter Park ski area (there are many online descriptions of this road, which follows the grade of the railroad that preceded the Moffat Tunnel). Beware: the road is passable to passenger vehicles, but it is rough in sections and it can take one hour to reach the trailhead from the highway. The trailhead is well marked.

The trail begins in a forest with a moderate grade, reaching tree line after 0.5 miles. It continues to climb steadily, with one switchback, until it reaches Rogers Pass just beyond the junction with the Continental Divide Trail. Continue across the pass and then, when the ridge becomes rocky, follow the trail on the west side of the ridge. This section is relatively level.

When you reach the base of the obvious face of James Peak, which is a mix of tundra and rocks, the trail makes easy switchbacks but at a steeper grade. There are several trail junctions marked only with cairns; at each of these, turn toward the summit. The trail at one point grazes the vertical east face of the peak, giving a dramatic alpine view. The summit is large and flat, with stunning views in all directions. As you approach the summit, note your trail so that you don't descend on the wrong one!

Flora & Fauna

Marmots populate rocky sections of the ridge.

History & Background

This area has been used extensively since pre-European times; see this excellent historic summary on Wikipedia. Before the 1928 completion of the Moffat Tunnel, trains ran across Rollins Pass and there was a station, Corona Station, at the summit (hence the two names, Corona Pass on the west side, Rollins Pass on the east side). Foundations and other signs of Corona Station are evident at the pass. The pass, however, can no longer be crossed with vehicles because of multiple barriers near the summit. The historic accessibility of this wide low segment of the Continental Divide led to construction of many trails and wagon roads, and this hike follows some of the old roads.

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Aug 14, 2018
Matt Sellers

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  4.0 from 1 vote

#2787

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