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Jefferson Creek  Willows and mountain vista  Marsh marigolds

West Jefferson Trail

This is a delightful, peaceful climb along Jefferson Creek to windy Georgia Pass. It is a highly recommended substitute for a parallel section of the Colorado Trail that is hot, dry and teeming with mountain bikers.

Approach:
 

In the town of Jefferson, go west on Park County 35 (paved), 1.5 miles. Turn north onto County Road 37 (Jefferson Lake Road). Continue for about a mile to the fee station. The fee is for summer use of this area. (In June 2007, the fee was $5.00.) Continue on to Jefferson Creek Campground. Large active beaver ponds flank the road. Park just outside the campground. The trail starts at the west end of the campground.

This trail can be combined with the Colorado Trail for a loop. However, this section of the Colorado Trail is very dry and uninteresting, with lots of mountain bikers. If a loop is planned, it is recommended that you go uphill on the West Jefferson Trail.

  Trail Name West Jefferson  
  Trail # 643  
  Region Alma/Fairplay  
  Travel Time Round Trip 5 hours  
  Distance One-Way 5.0 miles  
  Elevation Gain 1500 feet  
  High Point 12,000 feet  
  Rating Moderate  
Description:
 
Go into the campground to the west end where one can see the old road continuing through a gate. The first section of the trail is through a hot and dry area, but soon approaches the creek, with mosses and horsetails lining its banks. After a short rocky section, the trail crosses the creek over a substantial bridge to a narrow footpath, contouring for several miles on the north bank of the creek. This section is very pleasant with nice views to the creek, with golden willow bushes in September, and mature spruce and fir
  Open July
  Close August
  Campground  Jefferson Creek
  Map Natl Geo #109 (last 2 mi only)

For the next mile the trail is above the stream that now has turned in a northerly direction. Do not be confused with some Colorado Trail markers on the trees; some are marked correctly with 'access to'. Climb above a tributary, finally cross it and continuing on the west side up numerous switchbacks into the cool, silent forest. Arrive at timberline. The trail is now visible ahead, crossing a small snow-covered cirque. Finally, in a high windy alpine meadow, the trail once again connects with the Colorado Trail. Excellent views are waiting about miles north on the Colorado Trail at Georgia Pass on the Continental Divide. The South Fork of the Swan River spreads out below. To the south is Mount Guyot, 13,370 feet.

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Copyright 2007 Rosanne Shaw