- 75 miles southwest of Gunnison
- 8.2 mile roundtrip
- 4 to 5 hours
- Trailhead Elevation:
- 10560 feet
- Elevation Change:
- 2200 feet
- July - October
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.
A clear, vehicle two-track serves as the Cooper Creek Trail for the first l.5 miles to a mine on private property. BLM has no control over the mine area since it is on private land. Although it is not posted, please do not trespass. From here, the trail crosses to the east side of Cooper Creek and up the valley. The spur to the top is not always clear but the drainage out of Cooper Lake is obvious and can easily be followed.
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 raingear. 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.
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.
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. Minimum impact camping is possible at Cooper Lake and several places along the trail.
Parking, camping and toilet facilities are available just off the road at the trailhead. Camping is also available at several pullouts on the road just west of the trailhead.
Lake City is 60 miles southwest of Gunnison on Hwy 149.
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 drive another 4.2 miles to the Silver Creek Trail. The Cooper Creek Trail is located approximately .8 miles further on the right.