Colorado Trail Segment 7: The Black Diamond
Segment 7 of the Colorado Trail links Breckenridge to Copper Mountain – a twenty minute drive along the highway, but a six hour trek that gains more than 3,600 feet (and loses most of that too). With about three and a half miles above treeline, I treated this hike as I would any Colorado 14er – start early and get back below treeline by noon.
Endpoints: Gold Hill Trailhead to Copper Mountain
Type: day hike
Leaving my bed in Denver at 4am was less than pleasant, but I arrived at the Gold Hill Trailhead and started hiking by 6am. Obviously, Alex did not join me. It was way colder than I expected for an early morning midsummer (below 40!), so I wore all my layers to start. I spent the first couple of miles trying to convince myself that my rain jacket was a great insulator (not true) and that my bare legs would regain feeling once I started the serious climbs of this segment (mildly true).
The sunrise over the mountains was spectacular, including a rainbow of colors and views of the Dillon Reservoir. The trail climbed for the first couple of miles through open trees, then declined through a logged area to a stream. After the stream, the major uphill began. Some portions were pretty steep. I took frequent breaks and reminded myself to slow down. I’d expected a much busier trail, but very few people witnessed my wheezing.
Just before treeline, there is a set of steep switchbacks. Once I made it up, the trail opened up to an awesome view. Even better, I could fully enjoy that view since the trail leveled out for the next mile or so. I saw much of the Breckenridge ski resort from above. Shortly after, I reached the high point of the trail and an excellent snack break location. From here, the west side of the range becomes visible and the Copper Mountain ski resort comes into view as well. I could see the point where I was heading, many thousands of feet below.
After the high point, the trail follows the top of the ridge along the ski area boundary. This was my favorite section of this segment: a gentle downslope with 360 degree views. I started to see some more hikers on this side. The trail then dips steeply back towards and into the trees. I saw several bikers in this area, though none were actually backing. They were all walking (read: pushing) their bikes uphill, not appearing to be having wild amounts of fun.
I made it all the way down to the base of Copper Mountain around 12:30 with unexpectedly sore legs from the steepness of the climbs and declines. A friend, who’d happened to camp nearby over the weekend, picked me up and drove me back to my car. The cool thing about Segment 7, however, is that it would be very easy to section hike solo, since the Summit County shuttle can take you between Copper and Breckenridge, albeit more slowly than a car.
Packs & Poles
Osprey Celeste 29L: It’s always a nice reprieve to carry a daypack after a couple weekends of backpacking. This pack definitely could have fit my puffy and a pair of long pants to keep me warmer at the start of this hike.
Hiking Poles: These boys came in extra handy on this section, which was really steep! I’m also perfecting the art of balancing them against my body when I take pictures – nearly every mile on this segment.
Marmot PreCip: The rain jacket that I tried to force into being a puffy in the pre-sunrise hour of this hike. It’s a good rain jacket and shell layer, but certainly not an 800-fill-power down jacket.
Champion Tshirt: A very old athletic t-shirt I wear instead of tank tops to prevent my backpacks from chafing my shoulders. It’s a shirt.
La Sportiva Ultra-Raptor Trail Runners: I got these on somewhat of a whim back in January. Honestly, I had a hard time getting used to these at first. I got a larger size than normal at every article about thru-hiking shoes’ advice, but got blisters at first with my heels moving all over the place. What saved me was an alternate shoe-tying method: the heel-lock method prevents my feet from moving around so much. Although, I do find that I need to re-tie the shoes a couple times over a day of hiking. But, I like the lighter weight and knowing they’ll dry out fast if they ever get soaked.
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