Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
South Texas Creek
The South Texas Creek Trail is a classic hike through high altitude tundra above treeline. The trail starts at the top of Cottonwood Pass and heads directly east down towards Texas Creek through a wilderness of grassy meadows and pine groves with huge views. The trail sees much less than the other trail from the top of Cottonwood, so there is a good chance that you will have it all to yourself. It’s one of the best hikes in the area.
Instead of turning around at mile 2.1, follow the trail as long as you like for a longer hike or even a multi-day backpacking adventure as the trail drops down into Texas Creek below. Bring a map.
Trailhead Access & Facilities
From the stoplight in downtown Buena Vista, drive west on West Main Street, which turns into CR 306. Follow CR 306 just under 20 miles to the summit of Cottonwood Pass. Park in the large summit lot.
No facilities at the trailhead or along the trail.
Location: Top of Cottonwood Pass, West of BV
Distance: 4.2 Miles – Out & Back
Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Best Months: June through September
Trail Type: Singletrack
Dog Friendly: Yes – Dogs on leash in wilderness areas.
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 11,678; High Point 12,160; Climbs/Descends 722
Land Status: Gunnison National Forest, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area
Maps: Trails Illustrated #129
Note: This is a good trail for an overnight camping trip.
0.0 Trailhead – from the top of Cottonwood Pass, turn east and walk about 40 yards across the parking lot to the signboard at the bottom of the obvious singletrack headed east. Sign the trailhead register at 12,126 feet and start hiking. (N38º49.67, W106º24.50)
0.3 Trail climbs immediately above the road onto a small saddle with a big view. Walk to your right (south) toward the big cairn and not on the well-worn singletrack to the left. Follow the big cairns south along the ridgeline. The trail is a little faint and rocky.
0.4 Trails swings sharp left and drops into the beautiful alpine basin below with big peaks on the far eastern horizon. Once down in the basin, the trail follows the left hillside – look for the large cairns marking the route.
1.2 Trail goes straight down through the bushes and becomes a bit more difficult to follow, depending on the vegetation. Keep a sharp eye as the trail swings out into the middle of the valley.
1.4 Trails drops down the right here (N38º50.38, W106º24.02) as it passes through sparse forests and meadows. There are beautiful places to camp or picnic through this area.
2.1 Our hike turns around here at 11,692 feet, as the trail comes out of a grove of trees and swings left uphill. There is a small stream here – enough to fill water bottles. (N38º50.83, W106º23.65) Follow the same trail back to the trailhead.
4.2 Back at the trailhead.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
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