Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Colorado Trail at Kennebec Pass & Taylor Lake

The very scenic Kennebec Pass is 26 miles of trail from the Durango Trail head of the Colorado Trail in southwest Colorado. A trail access point in the vicinity is northwest along the Junction Creek Road, Forest Road 171. 

Drive past the Animas Overlook Interpretive Trail for 10.9 miles on the bumpy but drivable road to road 171N that makes a left turn. After 0.7 miles on 171N, the Colorado Trail crosses with space for parking. The trail head elevation is about 10,200 feet.

The first segment of trail climbs steeply with switchbacks through spruce and fir forest along the south flank of Olga Little Mountain. After the switchbacks the trail emerges from the forest and crosses a long scree slope with views south to 12,518 foot Snowstorm Peak and 12,388 foot Cumberland Mountain. Along the scree slope I heard and saw several of the rabbit relative pikas that mountain hikers like to see.

It is 3.1 miles from the road 171N starting point to the 11,680 foot Kennebec Pass. At the pass there is a side trail up to a small mining ruins site that sits on the northeast shoulder of Cumberland Mountain. Olga Little Mountain is on the north side of the pass. This segment of trail appears on some maps as the Slide Rock Trail, but all the signs that I saw only said Colorado Trail.

It is another 0.6 miles from the pass to the parking area that is at the top of LaPlata Canyon. The LaPlata Canyon road is rough at the top and not every vehicle can drive all the way. Along this stretch near the parking area some of the widest mountain views in the area. 

The San Miguel Mountains in the Lizard Head Wilderness stand out. In midsummer, this is also a very rich wildflower area, but in late September most of the color had faded. It took me 1:40 hours for the 3.7 miles to reach the Kennebec Pass parking area. Along the road just below, there are some artifacts from the LaPlata Canyon mining era visible.

The Colorado Trail continues west and after 1.4 miles reaches a trail junction with the Shark’s Tooth Trail near Taylor Lake. The moderate sized lake sits in the basin below a ridge of peaks. At the trail junction, there are two trail signs giving the mileages to other destinations in the LaPlata Mountains.

The Colorado Trail continues up the slope to the north of Taylor Lake and turns north where it is also known as the Indian Ridge Trail. The Sharks Tooth Trail circles around the south side of Taylor Lake, crosses the ridge, and continues to a trail head on Twin Lakes Road 6.25 miles away. My side hike from the Kennebec parking area to Taylor Lake took 1:20 hours for about 2.8 miles.

The return hike has good views down LaPlata Canyon and across to the west side of Cumberland Mountain and Snowstorm Peak. My return downhill hike took 1:30 hours for a total hike of 4:35 hours for about 10.2 miles. It was 52 F degrees at the start point at 10:30 AM and 62 F at 3:10 on a warmer than average late September day. I carried 3 liters of water and drank most of it.

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