In a flashback moment I found myself on Clear Creek Road passing by the reservoir with views of Mount Harvard, then past the road crossing for Collegiate East (CE) Segments 11 and 12 where I’d hiked in June (blog link). The Collegiate West (CW) route roughly parallels the CE and shares tread with the CDT (Continental Divide Trail).
Sheep Gulch Trailhead is a bit further down down the road and for southbound hikers marks the end of Segment CW01 and the beginning of CW02. My plan was to hike south to Lake Ann Pass before returning to the trailhead and hiking north to Hope Pass.
Lake Ann Pass
I found myself back in aspen trees. I hadn’t been below 10,000 feet in quite a while. I enjoyed the first few miles hiking south from the Sheep Gulch Trailhead. After so many recent miles above treeline, this was a pleasant change. Little did I know until I returned that I was on a slow descent, no wonder I was smiling.
As typical during monsoon season, the daily rains kept flowers blooming.
It’s always nice being in wilderness areas, which means no bikes and no motorized vehicles. Although this area is now called Collegiate PEAKS Wilderness, signage was either made in error or with a previous name.
As I hiked south there were several visible peaks including the Three Apostles.
Granite and Virginia Peaks.
The creeks were running full after all the recent monsoon rains. I loved only needing to carry a liter or water.
As I gained elevation, the views became even more WOW.
My first view of Lake Ann didn’t disappoint. I knew I didn’t have another 1,000 feet in a mile left in my legs so would enjoy an afternoon and night at the lake and tag the pass in the morning.
The views in the lake basin were WOW with plentiful flowers and colorful mountains.
This colorful range includes La Plata Peak.
Paintbrush was still showy at this elevation.
I had a front row seat to watch the evening storm develop before eventually dumping heavy rain, accompanied by somewhat distant thunder and lightning. Can you find my tent?
I was hoping for alpenglow in the morning, but with clouds blocking the morning sun, this bit of glow with lake reflection was the best I got.
With an early climb out of the basin I enjoyed more reflections. The area highlighted in morning glow is Lake Ann Pass, my destination.
I was warned by a group who camped near me that the trail was hard to follow and using a digital map or app would be helpful. I was concerned as I wasn’t able to top off my phone battery due to an apparent power cord failure.
Much of the trail switchbacks through rocks. I gave myself a reminder to turnaround if I found the trail difficult to follow. Thankfully I found it quite easy to navigate.
I was thrilled on the smoothish sections between the rocky mine fields.
Lake Ann pass appears to be within a short distance, but . . .
Then you turn the corner and find more.
There were occasional views of Lake Ann to distract me from the climb.
Huron Peak is the predominate mountain.
When I reached Lake Ann Pass, I was surprised to find a valley filled with fog much as I had on the previous segment near Cottonwood Pass.
On my way down I passed a few hikers going up and when I turned around later I captured this photo of one on the pass.
There were some flowers to be found along the way including these phacelia. I also found past peak Colorado Columbine and Sky Pilots.
I reminded myself constantly getting up is only halfway, focus on each step coming down all those rocks.
I relaxed once back at the lake junction.
Lousewort has been a common bloom along the trail this summer.
Larkspur and Monkshood have also been plentiful, although now past peak.
I found some more of the unusual gentian.
Without afternoon rain it was uncomfortably hot on my return trip. I was grateful for the creeks and shade where I could cool off.
This truly was a gorgeous forested section.
As I neared the trailhead I had views of Hope Pass, my next destination.
This section is 25.9 miles with 6,122 feet elevation gain and 4,163′ loss. Since I wasn’t able to charge my phone I wasn’t able to track this hike after Lake Ann. My estimate is it was 19 miles and 3,300′ elevation gain/loss round trip. I was leaving the remaining miles south to Cottonwood Pass for another time. This profile is to Lake Ann which was 9.7 miles with 2,100′ of gain.
This is from the FarOut app showing the estimated distance and elevation gain/loss between the lake and the pass.
I debated for a long time whether I wanted to tackle this pass from the Twin Lakes or Sheep Gulch Trailheads. Either way it’s an ascent of 1,000 feet per mile; however it’s only 2.5 miles from Sheep Gulch whereas it would be a 3.5 mile ascent from the Twin Lakes plus additional miles requiring an overnight trip.
Much like the early part of the hike south toward Lake Ann, this hike north was in a lovely forest before topping out above treeline. I was offered views of Hope Peak before I could see the pass.
Eventually the pass came into view with Quail Mountain to the east and Hope Mountain to the west.
The 2.5 mile ascent went by fairly quickly and soon enough I could see the finale.
To the north were views toward Twin Lakes Reservoir, and what I missed by hiking to the pass from the other direction. A met some hikers who spent the night at this pond.
To the south I could see the drainage that led to Lake Ann Pass as well as the big peaks like Mount Harvard.
I have mixed feelings about these prayer flags on Hope Pass. They break LNT guidelines but maybe remind hikers about peace. This is the view to the east toward Quail Mountain. It looks deceptively small from this angle.
Before reversing course I chatted with a few thru hikers, runners and a couple who were hiking up Hope Peak. It was nice to peer into the Lake Ann drainage and way down to the valley where my car was parked.
The beginning of the aspen groves signaled a drop in elevation.
The segment from Twin Lakes to Sheep Gulch is 9.8 miles with 3,606′ gain and 2,644′ loss, assuming southbound travel. My round trip hike was a little over 5 miles and 2,500′ gain/loss. I left the remaining miles for another time.
Colorado Trail Segments Hiked:
- 1-5 CO – THE Colorado Trail, Segments 1-5, Waterton Canyon to Kenosha Pass (06/22)
- 12-13 CO – THE Colorado Trail, Segments 12-13, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness (06/22)
As of this post, I’ve hiked about 246 miles toward The Colorado Trail plus 175 bonus miles (repeats/side trails) with over 70,000 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.
- Buena Vista is a GREAT resupply and regrouping town.