Bears in Cooper Creek basin
Cooper Creek THCooper Creek TH
- well marked traihead located just one mile past the popular Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch trailhead used for the 14ers: Redcloud, Sunshine and Handies.
From Lake City take Hwy. 149 south, 2.5 miles. Turn right on the road to Lake San Cristobal. Follow the paved road about 4 miles, then continue on dirt road for another 8.3 miles. Bear right at the fork - well signed road up Cinnamon Pass; and travel another 4.2 miles to the Silver Creek Trail. The Cooper Creek Trail is located approximately .8 miles further on the right. Obviously, you can access this trailhead also if coming over Cinnamon Pass from the west - Silverton area. You do need a 4WD high clearance vehicle to reach this trailhead.
The road is open year round up to Sherman townsite (only a ghost town currently with very few buildings left), the road up towards Cinnamon Pass is closed from November (conditions dependent, could be earlier) til late May.
The Cooper Creek trail is well marked and easy to follow. It does ascend through forested area, passes through open meadows, crosses the creek, and finally starts to ascend towards a basin below the Cooper lake. You will see "Every Mountain" right ahead and slighty to the east as you ascend up the valley. Cooper Creek is 3.7 miles long is one is going all the way to the lake.
I chose to ascend first "Every Mountain" climbing up to the west ridge of it and taking an easy, but kind of long stroll to the summit of "Every Mountain". The views of 14ers: Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn were incredible.
From the summit of "Every Mountain" descend its east, south east slopes and continue along the ridge to the summit of "Cooper Creek Peak". You will bypass a couple of false summits. There was a cairn at the summit and great views of 14er Redcloud (Sunshine hiding behind Redcloud). I did not find a summit register.
I descended towards the saddle between Cooper Creek and Every Mountain and started to drop into upper Cooper Creek drainage. I found trail here and there, but walking was easy on a nice tundra. Lower down where the trail became more defined I ran into mama and cub bear - what an excitement towards the end of the day!
Cooper Creek Trail with Whitecross Mountain in the background
"Every Mountain" from the slopes of "Cooper Creek Peak"
14ers: Redcloud and Sunshine
"Every Mountain" from the slopes of "Cooper Creek" higher up
Cooper Creek Peak summit
Redcloud from the summit of "Cooper Creek Peak"
Hiking Cooper Creek basin and the peaks are free. Driving on Scenic Alpine loop is free, but the road is closed from late October to late May, parking at the Cooper Creek TH is free as well.
You need a high clearance 4 WD vehicle to access this trailhead.
When to Climb
Summer and early autumn is the easiest since you can drive to high up on Engineer Pass or Cinnamon Pass roads. Winter and spring provide a more difficult access, and you have to travel through avalanche prone terrain. Check avalanche conditions prior venturing out there in the winter - Northern San Juan Avalanche Information Center
The alpine scenic loop is usually open to motorized vehicles in June and closes with the first big snowfall - late October, early November.
There is primitive camping right at the trailhead. If you wish to have access to a dry toilet, you need to drive less than 1 mile to the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch TH.