How to Get There: 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 and travel another 4.2 miles to the Silver Creek Trail. The Cooper Creek Trail is located approximately .8 miles further on the right.
Trailhead Parking/Camping: Parking is available in a small area along the side of the main road. Camping near the trailhead would best be done in the meadow north of the road or the small knoll southeast of the parking area. Minimum impact camping is possible at Cooper Lake and several places along the trail.
Attractions: The Cooper Creek Trail does not lead to a 14,000 foot peak and as a result, is not visited nearly as much as the Silver Creek and Grizzly Gulch Trails. It does however lead to scenic Cooper Lake in a quiet glacial valley. Continuing to hike over the ridge to the north will lead into Lee Smelter Gulch, down to Henson Creek and the Henson Creek Road. No maintained trail exists in this area, providing hikers with a true backcountry experience.
Narrative: An old vehicle two-track serves as the Cooper Creek Trail for the first l.5 miles to a mine that use to be private property. It has been acquired by BLM and cleaned up. In this area, the trail crosses to the east side of Cooper Creek and up the valley. The spur to reach the lake is not always clear but the drainage out of Cooper Lake is obvious and can easily be followed.
Hazards/Considerations: It is important to be prepared for typical July and Aug. afternoon thundershowers. Stay off ridges and away from open ground to avoid lightning strikes during storms. Be sure to bring water sunscreen and rain gear. Remember, hiking at high altitude requires more time and energy. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and avoid overexertion. Be sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to return.
Additional Information: If extending the hike to Lee Smelter Gulch, travel over the saddle to the north of the lake and wind down into the valley. Outward Bound groups occasionally use this route so a faint trail may exist. Be sure to bring a topographic map to help you find your way. Finishing the hike requires crossing Henson Creek which can be tricky during early summer runoff. You will end up on the Henson Creek road with Lake City about 8 miles to the east. You can arrange for friends to pick you up or it is usually easy to hitchhike into town.
Created by the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado
Point of Contact: Jim Lovelace
Last modified: January 6, 2011