Hope Pass via Willis Gulch Trail is a challenging climb that will test your strength & breathing! An incredible trail that takes you far above treeline to views beyond your expectations. One of Colorado’s amazing hikes!


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Not far from Twin Lakes, CO, on Hwy 82 is the trailhead for Willis Gulch Trail, a popular starting point for the hike to Hope Pass. We arrived early and found the trail to ourselves. We hiked over a bridge and entered an emerald green marshy wonderland. Beaver ponds and stepping stones lead the way.



We came upon a signpost about a 1/2 mile into the trail full of options. Only 4 1/2 miles to Hope Pass! Little did we know that a 4 1/2 mile lung buster awaited us.



Peaceful, shady, and gorgeous forests of aspens and pines take us up 1 3/4 miles. I can hear rushing waters somewhere ahead.




When crossing another bridge, we marveled at the waterfall cascading beneath us.


I wanted to share my favorite VEST and > JACKET that has lasted me for years and I carry year-round. Wearing one or both depending on conditions. (even summer in the high country can get colder quickly) Easy to pack, lightweight, and warm.




Here we are at the connection to the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) and CT (Colorado Trail), which will take us to the top of Hope Pass. So excited!




Ok, my breathing is labored, I can feel my heart racing, yet I can’t stop moving as we near our destination. However, we did stop along the way to take in areas of old mine remnants.



After hiking through wildflower-filled meadows, I sense we are almost breaking the tree line. Wow, the views ahead are mind-boggling. They come at you suddenly and take a moment to process. Stunning.





Earlier, we passed a signpost to Big Willis Lake leading in another direction but passed this little lake as we hiked on to Hope Pass.




I am always in awe when above treeline. Sounds of Marmots and Pikas fill the air as we continue.

It’s Colorado Wild, and here are a few items to consider: Bear Spray, Nuun Tablets, & First Aid.





The final push to the top! It’s grueling yet intoxicating while surrounded by the highest peaks.

NOTE: Hope Pass is the iconic climb of the Leadville Trail 100 Run Course. We saw runners on this trail! So amazing.




Yay, we are here, and it’s mind-boggling. Views in every direction are unreal. It’s exceptional. We meet a few CT thru-hikers as they take in the scenery and take a break.



It was fun to hear all the trail stories from the CT thru-hikers. And even more, fun to be a trail angel as we passed out extra sandwiches we had carried with us. Bring extra if you are doing a day hike. It’s much appreciated.



This hike tops most trails I’ve previously hiked – shady beginnings in rich forests and an area above the tree line that surpassed previous hikes. I love it.

The trail was challenging, but I feel doable for any hiking enthusiast.

Not to be taken lightly, though. It’s a high-altitude trail. Dehydration plus fickle weather is always something to consider. Look at the practical gear we love at Crazy About Colorado and have in our backpacks every hike. > CLICK HERE

10 miles out & back

Rated: strenuous

3,254′ elevation gain

Highest elevation: 12,508′

No restroom

Leashed dogs ok

Nearest Town: Twin Lakes/Leadville, CO

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

San Isabel National Forest

Leadville Ranger District



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Note: Many links are affiliate links meaning I receive a tiny commission (at no added cost to you).