Cochetopa Hills Roadless Area Trails
One of Colorado's least-known segments of the Continental Divide runs between the San Juan and Sawatch ranges along the western rim of the San Luis Valley. A large portion of this unprepossessing, forested length of the divide lies within one of the state’s largest unprotected roadless areas, known as the Cochetopa Hills. In years past, as conservationists mobilized to push for wilderness designation of the state’s mountains and forests, efforts in this part of Colorado focused on the undeniably spectacular Sangre de Cristo Range and the high peaks of the Collegiates farther north. The rolling landscape of Cochetopa Hills and surrounding peaks with uninspiring names like West Baldy and Middle Baldy failed to conjure impressive images, and as a result this area lay forgotten except for loggers and hunters. In the big picture of Colorado’s landscape, however, the Cochetopa Hills fill a crucial role, for they are the ecological connection between the large protected wilderness areas of the San Juans to the south, the equally important preserves of the Elk and Sawatch ranges to the north, and the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east. The Cochetopa Hills also provide one of the rare areas in Colorado where all of the state’s major forest types coexist. Ecologists can find an abundance and diversity of species here in uncommon proximity including Douglas fir, white fir, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, limber pine, ponderosa pine, Colorado blue spruce, and Engelmann spruce. This northernmost extension of the San Juan Mountains has a volcanic history. Twenty-five to thirty million years ago, volcanoes spewed basaltic lava, ash, and breccias across the land, which was later uplifted to its current height. These volcanic deposits overlie Precambrian granites near Sargents and sedimentary Mancos Shale and Dakota Sandstone farther west. Several granite domes rise just west of the Cochetopa Hills. These formed when molten rock pushed into overlying sedimentary formations and bulged them upward. Erosion removed the uppermost layers and left the domes exposed. This trail guide includes descriptions of West Fork/Baldy and Colorado Trail.
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Directions to: Cochetopa Hills Roadless Area Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||8,200 ft|
|Top Elevation||11,974 ft|
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