Start from the Kenosha Pass parking area on US 285 and pick up the well-signed Colorado Trail (on the west side of the road). The first six miles of the trail rumble along root-strewn singletrack up and down a pair of 300-foot climbs. Hit this trail in late September/early October as the aspens are peaking and you’ll find yourself bombing through tunnels of fire-yellow leaves and scoping postcard views of the golden groves across the South Park valley.
After a narrow log crossing of Jefferson Creek, the real-deal climbing begins. From here, the Colorado Trail gains 1,800 feet over 6 miles as it climbs to the Continental Divide (topping out at 11,878’). Numbers aside, the real challenge to this climb is its constant maze of roots and rocks. As the trail approaches treeline, the roots subside but the grade remains: it’s a steady grind up to the Divide, and the effort pays off with top-of-the-world views down to Summit County and Breckenridge. The descent? Grip it and rip it on the first two miles; the roots will keep you honest as the trail ducks back into the trees.
-Mapped by Mark Harrison and Kris Wagner
TO TRAILHEAD: From Denver, head west on I-70 and take exit 260 onto 470 east (towards Colorado Springs). Continue 5 miles and take the exit onto US 285 heading south toward Fairplay. Continue 46.9 miles to trailhead parking on either side of the road.
Location: 39.426448, -105.835021
Just before the trail drops down to Jefferson Creek (and a narrow log-crossing), you'll need to open and close the cattle gate here. Move quick: mosquitoes have been known to attack stragglers here.
The Climb Begins
Location: 39.429066, -105.848465
Just past Jefferson Cree, the meat of the climbing begins. The grade is fairly steady, never punishingly steep, but what makes the first 4 miles of this climb truly difficult are the tricky root obstacles (which are particularly tough when wet).
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