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Mount Sopris

Intermediate/Difficult

Trail

13.4 mile 21.5 kilometer out and back
75% Runnable
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 4,228' 1,289 m
Descent: -4,228' -1,289 m
High: 12,884' 3,927 m
Low: 8,655' 2,638 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 66% (34°)

Dogs

Off-leash
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Map Key

Trail shared by Tom Robson

Ascent of the formidable Mt. Sopris - one of Colorado's most beautiful peaks.

Tom Robson

Features Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

July and August pose the safest time to attempt Mount Sopris, though this area can be very nice in spring, summer and fall. Be prepared for the worst weather conditions, as a warm, sunny day can quickly change to catastrophic weather.

Overview

Mount Sopris rises spectacularly from the Roaring Fork Valley floor dominating any view from Carbondale, CO.

Expect beautiful meadows teeming with wildflowers, open vistas and clear high-alpine lakes. This is one of Colorado's most sought after runs.

Need to Know

There are designated camping areas at Thomas Lakes. No dogs allowed here.

Description

Easily accessed from Dinkle Lake Rd. off of Prince Creek Rd., the trail starts at the Thomas Lakes/Hay Park trailhead. From the trailhead look for the well-signed Hay Park Trail/Thomas Lakes Trail - take this heading south.

Hay Park Trail/Thomas Lakes Trail follows primitive doubletrack as it winds through the woods for ~1mi until it reaches an open meadow and contours to the right for ~.8mi. From here, the trail comes to a junction. Turn right to stay on the Thomas Lakes Trail.

After the trail split, Thomas Lakes Trail climbs through Aspen trees and open meadows for ~2mi. In this span, the trail crosses Prince Creek twice before finally reaching Thomas Lakes. From lower Thomas Lake, the trail ambles its way up to upper Thomas Lake and is called the Mount Sopris Trail. Take a few minutes to refuel at one, or both of the lakes and eye the Mt. Sopris summit.

From the lakes, the Mount Sopris trail switchbacks steeply to the ridge above. Once you finally gain the ridge you'll be able to spot the Elk Mountains - largest being Capitol Peak (14,130'). The trail now quickly becomes talus, which proves to make route finding difficult. Continue to climb along the ridge and negotiate the large talus field. You'll know you're off route if you stray too far north of the ridgeline (south is a precipitous drop-off).

Once the trail bears almost exactly due west, you'll be on the start of the summit ridge. Continue on Mount Sopris Trail and gain the false summit. If you look north, you'll see the massive scree field cascading below you - according to NOAA, this is actually one of the few mountains in North America with a Rock Glacier.

Once atop the false summit, gain the second false summit as you traverse west along the ridge. Now the only thing left is to gain the actual summit! Continue to traverse west as the Mount Sopris Trail takes you along the ridge all the way to the Mount Sopris summit (12,965'). Once at the Mount Sopris summit, absorb the awesome views... There isn't a better vantage point of the nearby Elk Mountains than this.

Now that you've had your fill of views, head down the mountain, exactly the way you came. Nice work!

Flora & Fauna

You'll find vast wildflowers featuring Rocky Mountain Columbine, Golden Banner, Indian Paintbrush, and Wild Iris from July-September. Keep an eye out for Pika and Marmot!

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Check-Ins

Aug 10, 2019
Max Krapff
Jun 24, 2017
Anthony Carroll

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 6 votes

#499

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  5.0 from 6 votes
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#95

in Colorado

#499

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111 Views Last Month
13,245 Since Dec 14, 2014
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Carbondale runner, Elinor Fish, out for a sunrise cruise on the flanks of Mt Sopris.
Sep 30, 2015 near El Jebel, CO
View of the Elk Mountains from the summit of Mount Sopris.
Dec 15, 2014 near Carbondale, CO
One of the many open meadows on the Thomas Lakes Trail heading up to Mount Sopris.
Dec 15, 2014 near El Jebel, CO
Looking down the talus field to the Roaring Fork Valley on the Mount Sopris Trail.
Dec 15, 2014 near El Jebel, CO
This is off a little trail coming from campsite 11 if I remember correctly.
Oct 20, 2017 near El Jebel, CO
Ridge.
Oct 20, 2017 near El Jebel, CO

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