Features: Lake — River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers
Starting from Tennessee Pass at US Hwy 24, this segment of the Colorado Trail tracks southwest with a gentle, mostly level, path through the forest. NOTE: The end of CT - Segment 8
and the start (southbound) of Segment 9 are both at that parking lot so make sure you are on the right trail!
At mile 2.5, cross a stream; there are two bridges, but the first branch of the stream is usually dry. Then, about 0.2 miles later, cross Wurts Ditch Road. With vehicle access to this area, it tends to get more people. Staying on CT is pretty easy if you look for the markers.
At mile 3.4, cross a 4WD road called Lily Lake Road. Shortly after that, cross the North Fork of Tennessee Creek which is a smaller stream and, at mile 3.7, cross West Tennessee Creek over a nice bridge. This is a good place to replenish water.
At around mile 4, the trail begins a moderate climb on a somewhat rocky path up into a valley. Both sides of this valley are fairly steep and the trail parallels the northwestern slope of the valley. There are a few options for camping in this area and access to water from a stream in the middle of a meadow running up the valley.
After the gentle ascent, heading southwest up the valley, the trail enters the Holy Cross Wilderness at mile 6.7. Shortly after entering the Wilderness, there is a climb (about 500 ft elevation over a mile) to Porcupine Lakes at mile 7.7 (11,450 ft). At the top of this climb, just before you see the "lakes", there are fantastic views of the valley and ridge lines north of Galena Mtn. The meadows here are beautiful and do offer campsites but in some seasons the ground around the small lakes is pretty marshy.
The trail then descends slightly (southward), crossing a few small streams, through open areas with wildflowers and then has a solid but short climb up to the high point at around mile 9 (11,700 ft) where it traverses a steep meadowy slope. This part of the trail offers fantastic views of the valley and there are a few campsite options at the southern end of the tundra.
The trail then follows a gentle descent through the forest again. Around mile 10.5, cross a small stream and intersect the trail to Bear Lake (which is well marked). The trail passes two more small lakes on the right around mile 11 (good camping) before one last climb, briefly above treeline, and then a long fairly steep descent to Timberline Creek Trailhead at mile 13.6. The exit from Holy Cross Wilderness is not marked at the actual boundary (instead it is by the trailhead).