Colorado Trail Segment 22 Hike Guide
Colorado Trail Segment 22 starts at Spring Creek Pass and ends at the Carson Saddle spanning over 17 miles of trail. This segment has 3800ft of elevation gain and is usually combined with other segments of the CT. Segment 22 also has the distinction of reaching the high point of the Colorado Trail at 13,271 feet. Views on this portion of the trail are incredible but camping and water options can be hard to come by.
Colorado Trail Segment 22 Quick Facts
Virtual Trail Guide: Colorado Trail Segment 22
Colorado Trail Segment 22 Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 Stars)
Distance: 17.2 Miles One Way
Elevation Start: 10,908ft
High Point: 13,271ft
Total Elevation Gain: 3,829ft
Estimated Time to Complete: 7-8 Hours One Way
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult What does this mean?
Class: Class 1 What does this mean?
Season: June – October – Likely lingering snow the earlier you try to attempt this segment
Directions to Colorado Trail Segment 22
Trailhead: Spring Creek Pass
Getting Here: Start Trailhead (Spring Creek Pass): Spring Creek Pass is located in between Creede and Lake City so to not assume where you are coming from, simply follow the map below. This segment access is paved.
End Trailhead: Carson Saddle is located on a 4×4 road just outside of Lake City and requires a long drive on forest roads. I have not driven to this trailhead on my own but am familiar with the area. If you have a standard 4×4 or a good driver in an AWD (not super high clearance) you shouldn’t have a problem accessing the “end TH”. I would not recommend leaving a car here.
Parking: Spring Creek Pass is a great spot to park with 20+ spots and a non-plumbing bathroom. There is also water access directly at the end of Segment 21 before you walk across the highway. Carson Saddle has no TH, no restrooms and only a small area to “park”. I would not recommend leaving a car here.
Fee: Neither TH has a fee to park at.
Dogs: Colorado Trail Segment 22 is dog friendly but water is extremely hard to come by, especially later in the season. Dogs can be off leash since no hiking enters a wilderness area, but please always pick up after your pup.
Camping: Camping on this segment can be tricky since so much of the trail is in high alpine terrain above treeline. Your best bet is mile 8.7-10ish where there are several dispersed areas off the trail before the trail leaves the willows and trees. The CT guide marks the spot at 8.7, but we ended up camping near 9 and there were a handful of other decent spots after that. After this area of the segment, camping is not easy to find – especially if you want to be covered from any incoming storm.
Access to Water: Colorado Trail Segment 22 is one of the driest on the entire Colorado Trail. There are water sources at mile 3.2 and 8.7 – but they are very tiny trickles that are not reliable. If you are into hiking about .5 miles off the trail – there are somewhat obvious ponds around mile 11-12 but these are not anywhere near the trail itself. Your best bet for water is waiting until the 1.2 mile marker in Segment 23 of the Colorado Trail.
Trail X Factors: CT High Point
For over 370 miles you have been hiking on the Colorado Trail and in the San Juan mountains on a somewhat unassuming spot – you FINALLY reach the high point of the Colorado Trail! I say unassuming because unless you were paying attention to your watch this spot is not overly dramatic and lacks any sort of stunning views you would expect from a high point. The massive sign does sort of give it away though…If you want to add a 13er (13,000ft peak) from the high point of the CT, ascend North to a small summit about .2 miles off and 100ft of elevation gain off the trail. The top is marked by a small rock cairn with a summit registry.
Hike Tip(s): Through hikers and segment hikers both need to pay attention to the weather on Segment 22 of the Colorado Trail. Once you hike past mile 10 of this portion of the CT – you are 100% exposed to weather with absolutely nowhere to go if a storm rolls in. In fact, from mile 10 well into Segment 23 of the CT – you really have no options to bail if a lightning storm rolls in. Be sure to plan your trip/day accordingly and always check the weather beforehand but more importantly, pay attention to the skies around you. The positive of being so high is being able to see clouds rolling in from miles and miles away.
Best Views: The entire thing. Honestly, you just can not go wrong with views on this segment.
Colorado Trail Segments 22 Hike Route
- SixMoon Designs Backpack
- Hiking Shoes
- Women’s Hiking Shoes
- Garmin inReach
- Water Filter OR UV Pen
- Optional: Tent
- Optional: Sleeping Pad
- Optional: Sleeping Bag
- Optional: Cook Kit
- Optional: Stove
- Optional: Hiking Poles
Colorado Trail Books:
- Full Version
- Pocket Guide
- *Links included in this description might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you.
Our Trip to Colorado Trail Segment 22: July 2022
Jackie and I had been chomping at the bit to get back on the Colorado Trail after a successful year segment hiking it in 2021. With just about 100 miles and 7 segments left we were nearing the end but also knew that the remaining miles presented a number of logistical problems including TH access. We decided to split it up into two trips 22-24 and 25-28. With the tragic passing of our husky Juno earlier in 2022, we wanted to finish the CT in her honor while also bringing our new husky, Aria, along. Aria had never been backpacking before which just added to the logistics mess we faced. However, we had picked up so many lessons from our previous trips and were excited to tackle this trip!
The drive to the end TH at Molas Pass started off with some car trouble from Jackie’s subie but luckily it didn’t put an end to the weekend but did leave a massive hole in our bank accounts. We spent the night camping near Molas Pass and an iffy weather weekend forced a 3AM wakeup call the next day. We made the nearly 3 hour drive back to Spring Creek Pass and started hiking around 7AM the next day. The weather was perfect, Aria was doing great and the views were…stunning, even for my jaded ass.
Summer in Colorado is beautiful but the weather can be very…annoying. Plan A was to hike about 22 miles, finish the segment and camp at the start of Segment 23. Reality hit early as the clouds rolled in very quickly and the weather turned sour fast. We were right around mile 6 and knew that our window to hike was closing fast. We created plan B and popped up our tent right around mile 10. Our hope was to dodge the round of storms and continue hiking later in the evening. By the time the weather stopped, it was too late to make a big push so we called it a night and rested for the next day. The night (and entire trip) was spent in our new Six Moon Designs Raven tent which turned out to be an absolute game changer for backpacking. Even with a broken corner thanks to our furry friend who was throwing a husky temper tantrum on the first night in it, the shelter was A+.
The next morning was another early start and we knew we had no option but to finish Segment 22 of the Colorado Trail today. We hiked along the high alpine and watched the beautiful sunrise behind us. With popular 14ers Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak visible to the North, we continued hiking along this beautiful trail. When we reached the high point of the CT after so many false “summits” Jackie and I were both very emotional. We missed Juno so much and were so sad she couldn’t share this moment with us. Hours of hiking and driving, thousands of feet climbed and so many beautiful memories created to get to this point. We took some time to memorialize Juno in a spot we could return to. Aria, in the most fitting husky way, was hunting marmots while we were crying on the side of this slope just off the trail.
Eventually, we knew we had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and with the end of Segment 22 in sight, we kept on hiking. After the high point, there was a fairly large descent to reach Carson Saddle and the end of the segment. It was the 4th of July weekend and after miles of seclusion, we were greeted with a number of OTVs with tourists driving up and down the old mining roads that surrounded the area. The end of Colorado Trail Segment 22 was somewhat anticlimactic – no sign, no trailhead – just the all too familiar CT logo directing us towards the next portion of hiking.
Overall, Jackie, Aria and I loved Segment 22 of the CT – even if the weather was not ideal. The views – incredible, wildflowers in full bloom and checking off the high point of the Colorado Trail was a cool accomplishment for all of us. You can read more about our weekend here where we tackled Colorado Trail Segment 23 next!