CO – THE Colorado Trail, Segments 26-27, Celebration Lake to Indian Trail Ridge (07/22)

Most everyone agrees the San Juan Mountains are one of the WOW sections of the trail. With early melt this year, they were ready when Joan had time off and we could coordinate another J&J adventure.

Joan created a route where we could shuttle cars between two trailheads on Highway 145, East Fork and Bear Creek. These trails both connect to THE Colorado Trail, the more northern to Segment 26 at Bolam Pass, and the southern at Indian Trail Ridge in Segment 27 (leaving me a few miles short of completion). These segments are 31.5 miles with 6,013 elevation gain and 5473′ loss. Our route was 50 miles with 4,500′ elevation gain and 6,500′ elevation loss.

It was a day to test our rain gear and systems, which we would ultimately use daily. It reminded us of our time in Washington on the PCT a few years ago.

Hail also became a daily occurrence. Our umbrellas and tree cover made these time-outs more tolerable.

I’ve been trying to capture good photos of these plants for weeks. Still not a great image but I did learn they are Kingscrown (Rhodiola integriflia).

This is a similar but different plant, most likely a clover.

We found lots of Elephant Head Orchids.

I should have taken more photos of this bloom, as this image is a bit blurry. It was fairly common plant.

We saw a ton of these in bud and a few starting to open but none in full bloom.

Near Bolan Pass there was a seriously mucky muddy road to walk. It was like walking in mashed potato snow, nearly as bad as postholing. We were so happy to get back onto a single track hiking trail.

With a 70% chance of daily rain and thunderstorms, the flowers were thriving.

Our first night we camped near Celebration Lakes. We happily stopped early to dry out and get camp set up before more rain.

We didn’t have to go too far the next morning before we found mountain views we crave.

We loved walking next to Hermosa Peak.

The next objective was Blackhawk Pass, but first a look back at Hermosa Peak.

Colorful Blackhawk Mountain.

Just when you think you are getting close . . .

You find more and more and more climbing to be done, and the inevitable building of clouds.

Joan also uses her umbrella for sun protection and heat management.

Near the top of the pass, we could see the use trail to Blackhawk Peak (12,681′). No, we weren’t tempted.

The 360-views of the Rico Mountains were amazing.

It was impossible not to celebrate at the pass.

I enjoyed finding these blooms I first saw at Colorado National Monument a few weeks earlier, now I just have to remember the name.

With thunder rumbling and clouds building we didn’t get to lollygag at the pass near as long as we would have liked. I believe this is Whitecap Mountain (12,376′).

As we headed down we were greeted by a marmot (zoom to sign).

We found a great campsite that offered the best of both worlds, views yet protection during thunderstorms.

I woke up and saw the full moon rising.

This buck seemed to like this area and spent a lot of time roaming back and forth. I couldn’t grab my camera in time to get the best photo but when he came back for a second lap I caught this one.

This day started without much WOW, but we still found reasons to smile. This is part of a long waterless stretch that we’d started the previous day.

I was thrilled to discover we’d arrived at our exit junction much earlier in the day than planned which allowed us to spend a bit of time on the Indian Ridge Trail. This is looking up toward that 5-mile trail section. We really wanted to camp up there if we could find a thunderstorm safe area, but alas without water and only slanted lumpy options we dropped some of our gear before heading out for a jaunt.

With an eye on the clouds and an ear on the thunder, off we went to play in these huge tundra meadows.

Alpine tundra plants showcasing the La Plata Mountains.

This ridge is a pika and marmot playground. This area isn’t flat and in fact we turned around 2.5 miles short of the high point. I’ll have to catch from the other side if I want to complete Segment 27.

After all that frolicking it was time for a rest and no one does it better than Joan, although she still has her shoes on which is a rarity during breaks.

Joan caught me at some point taking shelter from the hail.

Our exit was via the Grindstone to Bear Creek Trails.

We had views back at where we’d been and used our Peak Finder apps to determine the names of others.

Hidden in the grasses we found a large collection of mariposa lilies.

The flies were quite bothersome on this trip, not necessarily biting flies but irritating with tons landing on and buzzing us. Of course there were some mosquitoes as well. Our defense was rainwear and headnets.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Grindstone Trail as it’s low use, overgrown, with recent burn and many log obstacles. Safe campsites were hard to find while water was not.

As we dropped elevation we were provided a few filtered views of the La Plata Mountains.

The upper portion of the Bear Creek Trail was filled with meadows and views of the burned trees.

Where’s the trail? After all the recent rains, our lower half was soaked from the wet plants.

We enjoyed the aspen groves as a break from the tall grasses..

Sadly an invasive thistle has filled many meadows. They were 6-8 feet in height.

We only saw one hiker on our exit trail until near the trailhead, although we did see a few folks fishing along Bear Creek.

I’ve gotten spoiled hiking the wide and well maintained Colorado Trail, and at this point in my fitness much preferred to this side trail.

This J&J adventure ended much too soon, but it won’t be the last. Where and when who knows, but until then I’ll continue to hike more miles on the Colorado Trail.

Poppy the Pack (blog link) is well broken in after many trail miles. Most likely I’ll make a few revisions on my second version I plan to make this winter.

Colorado Trail Segments Hiked:

As of this post I’ve hiked 191 miles toward completion of The Colorado Trail plus 114 bonus miles and over 51,000 feet of elevation gain/loss.


  • The Guthook/Far Out App and Colorado Trail Association Guidebook and Databook are helpful in planning section hikes. The guidebooks details parking and trailhead options along with the elevation profile. Far Out was a great way to plan my turnaround based on mileage and elevation gain/loss. I also used Gaia with the Colorado Trail Nat Geo layer.


10 thoughts on “CO – THE Colorado Trail, Segments 26-27, Celebration Lake to Indian Trail Ridge (07/22)

  1. Hi Jan, Great photos! Wow, I love the beautiful alpine tundra flowers photo! Sorry, but I thought you would like to know that the elevation gain/loss image seems to be missing. Also the photo that go with “It was impossible not to celebrate at the pass” and all of the photos after the Mariposa lily are also apparently missing.

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