Cataract Creek Route

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Half a day
Moderate Class 2, half off trail

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Cataract Creek Route
Created On: Aug 25, 2009
Last Edited On: Aug 25, 2009


Corbett Peak, Climax in BackdropCorbett Peak, Climax in Backdrop

This nifty “kite on a string” route takes the hiker up and over three Gore Range Twelvers. Roughly half of the total mileage follows the wide and shaded, combined Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail. The vast majority of the off-trail segments are above timberline, making for easy sight navigation. A short timbered off-trail section carries the hiker down a gully to meet back up with the trail.

From the spine of Elk Ridge, hikers are treated to views of the Mosquito and Tenmile Ranges to the east and the Sawatch Range to the west.

Roundtrip Mileage: About 9 miles
Elevation Gain: Net gain of 3,400 feet; (cumulative gain is higher)
YDS Rating: Class 2

Getting There

Pearl Peak Summit OutcropPearl Peak Summit Outcrop
  • Camp Hale Road (FS 726) sits about 3.5 miles north of Tennessee Pass on Hwy 24

  • From Hwy 23, on east side of road, head north-northeast on Camp Hale Road (FS 726)

  • Follow FS 726 for about 2.5 miles to junction with East Fork Eagle Road (FS 714)

  • About ¾ of a mile past the junction, look for a faint, poorly marked trail on your left heading northward

  • There is limited roadside parking available near the trailhead

Route Description

North Sheep Mountain 12436 ft.North Sheep Mountain 12436 ft.
Red Columbine on the lower approachRed Columbine on the lower approach
  • Just minutes after beginning your hike on this spur trail, it intersects with the combined Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail. Turn right at this junction.

  • The trail rises steeply, first north to cross Cataract Creek on a footbridge, then trending east to follow Cataract Creek.

  • Roughly 2.5 miles up the trail, after the trail switches back several times, timber gives way to tundra and Corbett Peak looms directly above you to your north.

  • Depart the trail and ascend the steep southern slope of Corbett Peak. Note: In the winter, you may wish to leave the trail further west and ascend instead the western ridge or Corbett Peak.

  • Arrive at Corbett Peak’s strange rocky summit and take in the views of Jaque Peak.

  • From the summit of Corbett Peak, Elk Mountain’s summit is only about a mile away as the crow flies to the north-northeast, but a few humps along Elk Ridge require the hiker to loose and gain elevation prior to reaching the top.

  • Ascending the final push to the summit of Elk Mountain, you will leave tundra and enter talus.

  • Note: In snow season conditions the final push to the summit may include kicking steps in some moderately steep snow.

  • Depart the summit of Elk Mountain and side step the steep western slope trending south-southwest toward the saddle with Pearl Peak.

  • Reaching the saddle, turn west-southwest and ascend the gentle slopes of Pearl Peak to a rocky summit outcrop.

  • Descend Pearl Peak by heading southwest (avoiding cliffy areas on Pearl’s western slope) and shoot for a clearing in the trees below and southwest of the peak.

  • A gully will carry you back to the Colorado Trail / Continental Divide trail. Sharp eyes may even pick up on blue-diamond trail marker for a winter route coming down from Jackal Hut.

  • At or near the mouth of the gully, regain the Colorado Trail heading westbound. Follow the trail back to the parking area.

Cataract Creek Route MapFrom the spine of Elk Ridge, hikers are treated to views of the
Mosquito and Tenmile Ranges to the east and the Sawatch Range to the west.

Essential Gear

  • Trail map (Trails Illustrated Map #109 Breckenridge / Tennessee Pass would meet most needs)

  • Compass

  • Sturdy hiking boots

  • Long pants to protect legs while bushwacking

  • Water and snacks

  • A camera to save memories of the views

  • First aid kit

  • Other standard backcountry essentials

Holy Cross from Corbett PeakHoly Cross from Corbett Peak

Cataract Creek Route

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