Monday, August 20, 2012

Jones Pass Loop - Time on the Divide

Jones Pass Loop - Time on the Divide

This morning, despite the clouds and threatening rain, I ran the Jones Pass loop. This is an excellent loop that features a fair bit of time on the Continental Divide above 12,000'. Although the loop is only ~14 miles, eight of those miles are above 12,000' and stay directly on the Divide, making this loop a great run for altitude and views. Plus, you get to tag one named peak (Hassell Peak at 13,215') and about 6 unnamed 12,000+ mini-peaks. The loop starts at the winter parking lot near the Henderson Mine at the base of the Jones Pass road. Run up the road, but then take your first left up Butler Gulch. Follow the old, closed mining road up into the Butler Gulch basin until you get to just past treeline. At this point, angle left/south and find a goat trail that will take you up onto the ridge running east off of Hassell Peak. Once on this ridge, run along it until you climb up and eventually reach the Divide. From here, you are on the Continental Divide Trail (perhaps one of the best sections, and one of the longest sections of the trail that is above 12,000'), and a quick jaunt south will take you to the top of Hassell Peak (I've run this a couple times; an alternative is to run Hassell Peak from the Herman Gulch trailhead). From the top of Hassel, simply head north on the Divide. You can either stay on the trail, which skirts the Divide itself, or as I did today, tag all of the little summits along the Divide (about 6 unnamed 12,000' peaks). Keep running north on the Divide past the Jones Pass road, tagging three more mini-peaks before heading east and dropping down along a ridge that splits the West Fork of Clear Creek with Vasquez Creek. The trail drops down, then turns south and angles along the western slopes of Vasquez Peak until connecting up with the trail to Stanley Mountain. At this point, just drop down a couple switchbacks and you are back at the start. Like I said, although this loop is only ~14 miles, it has over 5,256' of elevation gain, so it still packs a punch. It took me 3:23 today, with stops on Hassel and a few other spots for photos. You can go faster if you stay on the actual trail and don't tag all of the mini-summits.

 Hassell Peak with the ridge (the other small red dot) that you climb out of Butler Gulch
 Looking down on Hassell Lake in the Woods Creek basin
 The red dot is where you are going, keeping on the ridge along the entire way
 Looking at Pettingell Peak from Hassell
 Evans and Bierdstat (in the distance) and Bard, Parnassus, and Woods Peaks in the front (left to right - part of the Ruby Creek Traverse)
 Looking back at Hassell Peak after crossing Jones Pass and tagging the first mini-peak
Looking all the way back at Hassell Peak from the last mini-peak before heading down


  1. At this point, angle left/south and find a goat trail...

    Now this is the beta you don't get in any guide books :) Nice run and some big open spaces!

  2. No, that kind of beta is not in most guidebooks (except for one of the first trail running books for the Front Range that I wrote back in 2003 called "Colorado Front Range Alpine Trail Running Guide: Just the Basics for Those Who are Hardcore!"). I like to leave a little sense of adventure in the descriptions. ;)