Hiking Trails Keystone

 

Hiking is one of the great summertime activities to take part of in Summit County. Keystone is close to numerous hiking trails, but there are some hidden and nestles in the mountains. There are a huge variety of trails, ranging from leisurely promenades to steep uphill treks. Many differ by difficulty (beginner to advance) and length. The vertical is always something to consider for your party when selecting a trail. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and bring a jacket in can get cold in the high mountains. Bringing a water bottle is also highly recommended for any length hike. On longer hikes, it is nice to bring a backpack with lunch and some snacks. Sunscreen is also highly recommended as the sun’s rays seem to penetrate more in the high elevations.

Keystone is home to some interesting and exciting scenery and trails, but there are also glorious trails in Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge and Montezuma. Hiking is great with the family for a short afternoon or get some buddies together and trek to the top of a mountain. The views are extraordinary and well worth the effort. Here’s a list of recommended trails based on location and then difficulty. Note that length is roundtrip and vertical is just total change in elevation throughout the hike. The difficulty is usually dictated by the length and vertical difference in the trail.

Keystone

Dercum Mountain has some glorious view of the valley and the mountains. Hiking up the mountain can be a bit taxing, but you can also take the Gondolas up to the top and hike down, they also offer lunch packages (there is a fee to take the gondolas). Once you are at the top you can walk down the Schoolmarm trail (3.5 miles) or stay on top a while for some awesome photo opportunities, but the gondolas have limited hours depending on the season. The difficulty depends on which trail you take, the Schoolmarm is pretty flat and easy to hike up or down and would be a seven mile loop (2300 vertical), so be prepared for some steep sections, but otherwise the trail offers some awesome views and a winding descent down the mountain. There are several spin off trails that are steeper and some that are less steep, but either way this is a great area to walk. Be careful as there are cyclists in this area. There are some other areas in Keystone, but many are mainly abandoned ski areas or mountain biking terrain, our best bet is to move into Dillon and minimal elevation means the hike is very flat.

 

Dillon/ Silverthorne

Old Dillon Reservoir (1.5 miles/ vertical 150 ft.) – While most visitors focus on prominent Dillon Reservoir, nearby is a small but charming body of water, which is the goal of this short, easy hike. Not only is the slightly elevated locale of Old Dillon Reservoir a scenic one, but the trail is lined with fragrant wild roses in late June and into July. The gentle trail climbs only 140 feet in three quarters of a mile to offer a view of Dillon Reservoir below as well as the many mountains beyond. The goal is a tranquil pond reflecting massive Buffalo Mountain. Wildflower Alert: A bounty of fragrant wild roses leads to pretty views of Dillon Reservoir and a serene scenic pond.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and turn left onto Dillon Dam Road (CO Rd 7) and the Old Dillon Reservoir parking will be on the right several miles down (there are no roads to take you directly to the reservoir). On the other side of the road is Lake Dillon, so take a walk over there to enjoy the views of the lake.

Tenderfoot Mountain (2.5 miles/ vertical minimal) – Tenderfoot Mountain Trail offers wonderful views of Dillon Reservoir and the peaks of Tenmile Range beyond a flowery hillside. Thanks to a south-facing slope, this easygoing hike is especially fine on early season mornings and evenings; traversing cool aspen copses, sagebrush-studded open hillsides, and lodgepole pine stands, this one-and-a-quarter-mile trail heads up at a fairly steady pace. Wildflowers change with alternating habitats throughout the trail. A bench is located at the end of the hike for enjoying marvelous views of the water, flowers, and peaks. Wildflower Alert: This south-facing lake view trail brings on wildflowers early in the season.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon, then turn left onto the Roberts Tunnel Access Road. Take the first left hand turn from here to find the trailhead, enjoy the wildflowers and other flora while you make your way to fantastic views of Lake Dillon.

Dillon Peninsula (5.3 miles/ 225 ft.) – The Dillon Reservoir Recreation Area offers easy hiking opportunities; the mostly flat gated dirt road to the West Portal of the Roberts Tunnel is hikable year-round while the forested Meadow Loop and Ridge Trails can sometimes be obscured by snow. Various combinations of the two trails and road provide shorter or longer walks all with fantastic views of Dillon Reservoir, Dillon, the Gore Range, and the Tenmile Range. Interpretive signs created by fourth and fifth graders at Dillon Valley Elementary School add insight into the area and its inhabitants, both wild and human. The Dillon Nature Preserve contains two trails but is first and foremost a nature preserve. Keep your eyes open for fox, pine squirrels, deer, red-tailed hawks, and ospreys. Being lower than many trails in central Summit County, the snow melts sooner and the flowers bloom earlier here.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon. There is a left turn off to a parking area across from Dillon Cemetery Road (CO Rd 98) to get you to the trail head, this is also a trail head for the bike path around Lake Dillon.

Salt Lick Trail (4 miles/ vertical 650 ft.) – The cool days of autumn are best for enjoying the spectacular aspen and scenery of this trail. A golden carpet of Aspen leaves covered the trail during our recent fall outing here. Lily Pad Lake is about a half mile from this point so if you continue on you will add about one mile to your hike. Locals report occasional Moose sightings here so stay alert and keep that camera within reach! This hike is absolutely gorgeous in the fall with the changing of the leaves.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and connect with route 9 (Highway 6 turns into route 9) north to the Wildernest Road (across from Wendy’s) turn left onto Wildernest and continue for .9 miles and turn left on to a dirt road that is located on a sharp curve just as you pass the Wildernest Center (Conoco station). Park here and follow the road to the trailhead. Follow the trail for about 15 minutes until you see a log bridge on your left that crosses Salt Lick Creek. Cross the bridge and continue up the path past beaver ponds and open meadows and a sign that  marks the entrance to the Eagles Nest Wilderness area. If you miss the first bridge, there is another a couple dozen yards ahead – you can cross here.

Oro Grande Trail (6.5 miles/ vertical minimal) -  This is a gentle, easy hike for the whole family as there is no significant elevation gain as the trail gently undulates up and down while providing outstanding views of the Ten Mile Range across the valley from Lake Dillon. This is a great winter hike for snowshoes and also an excellent site for fall Aspen viewing in autumn. It is probably best avoided on warm summer days when the southern exposure and relatively low elevation (under 9500′) can make for some discomfort. The traffic on Route 6 can also be something of an annoyance to those seeking more isolation but the vistas make it most rewarding.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon, turn right onto Dillon Cemetery Rd. (CO Rd 98) and then take first right (about ¼ mile down and follow that to the parking area for the trailhead.

Ptarmigan Peak (12 miles/ vertical 3407 ft.) – The Ptarmigan Trail climbs steadily through various ecosystems including sagebrush meadow, lodgepole pine, aspen, spruce-fir, and alpine tundra —the land above the trees. While thick forest envelops the trail the first 4 miles, a few open spaces provide great views of the Gore Range or the lower Blue River valley. As you hike above tree line, keep your eyes open on the north ridge for the resident elk herd. The long hike is rewarded by beautiful vistas from the top, including four 14,000-foot peaks, much of the craggy Gore Range, the Tenmile Range, and Dillon Reservoir. This is hunting area so be wary of hunters. There are shorter versions of this trail, so don’t feel the need to hike to the top.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and connect with route 9 (Highway 6 turns into route 9). Head north on Highway 9 and turn right onto Rainbow Drive (by Wendy’s). Then take your first right turn onto Tanglewood Ln. Follow this and turn right onto Ptarmigan Trail, continue on Ptarmigan Trail (it becomes a dirt road) and trailhead parking will be on the right about 1 mile down the road. The trailhead will take you on the dirt road and follow this to the mountain. The trailhead is across from the parking lot.

Mesa Cortina (15 miles/ 2532 ft.) – This 14.9-mile hike traverses the Gore Range over Red-Buffalo Pass. Along the way, you can see almost everything that is special about the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Flower-filled meadows, views of craggy peaks and spires, marshes, avalanche paths, old graves, a set of waterfalls, and coniferous forests provide for a continuous change of scenery and feeling of remoteness. Most of the trail follows the route originally pro- posed for Interstate 70. The hike can be done as a long day hike, backpack, or separate hikes. Enjoy the beauty of the Gore Range and Eagles Nest Wilderness!

A shorter option is available; a (5.2 miles/ vertical 400 ft.) milder hike starts from the trailhead. A 20 or 25 minute walk brings you to a sign marking the entrance to the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Soon, you begin the most difficult part of the hike by ascending a series of switchbacks through the forest. Here you will enjoy opportunities for views of Lake Dillon off to the south and glimpses of the snow capped Williams Fork Mountains to the northeast, just simply make a loop and turn back to make this hike shorter.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon to connect with Colorado 9 (Highway 6 turns into Route 9). Take Rt. 9 north and turn left onto Wildernest Road at the traffic light – A Wendy’s is located on the right and a 7-11 store on your left. As you start up the mountain Wildernest Road becomes Ryan Gulch Road. Look for Buffalo Drive on your right and turn right here. Buffalo Drive dead ends at Buffalo Mountain Drive and you will turn right here. Take the next left, Lakeview Drive, which is soon intersected by Aspen Drive. Turn left onto Aspen Drive and the parking lot for the trailhead will be on your right.

 

Montezuma

Chihuahua Gulch and Lake Trail (6.1 miles/ vertical 1800 ft.) – with a name like Chihuahua Gulch, how can a dog lover not hike it or a dog not explore it? Begin hiking on the old mining road that climbs steeply as it passes through groves of aspen. At a fork, bear left, enter a meadow, and make the first creek ford, then follow the road and the creek through a large meadow that has two more stream crossings. Several small ponds are on the right (east). You may want to stop here to rest or for lunch. From here, the old mining road begins to climb in earnest. This is a great hike in July through early September, preferably in September to enjoy the foliage. Be warned, it gets very steep in certain parts.

To get here from Keystone: To get to the trailhead; take Montezuma Road (off Highway near River Run Village) east. Follow this down and take a left turn onto CO Rd. 260, follow this just passed the turn (about 2-3 miles) onto CO Rd. 263. Parking for the trailhead is just off of 260 or 263. Park along the road and enjoy the area.

Revenue Mountain (3.8 miles/ 2039 ft.) – While the initial ascent can be difficult, it is well worth it once you reach the top. You have spectacular views of the mountain and its valleys as well as numerous tundra and talus areas. Easy ridge walking from this peak leads to other close-by summits for extra credit. The trail is initially 1.0 mile, with tundra and talus beyond.

To get here from Keystone: To get to the trailhead; take Montezuma Road (off Highway near River Run Village) east. Follow this down and take a left turn onto CO Rd. 260, follow this passed the turn CO Rd. 263. Follow this down a ways to find the trailhead. Parking for the trailhead is just off of 260. Park along the road and enjoy the area.

Shelf Lake (5.8 miles/ vertical 2552 ft.) - One of Colorado’s nice surprises, this lightly used trail is ideal for those who enjoy hiking along briskly flowing creeks. The Colorado Mountains are full of nice surprises. Here is a fine trail to a lovely high lake, which is relatively unknown. The views become inspiring as you arrive at timberline at the head of the gulch. Argentine Peak looms impressively to the north-northeast of the lake, as does Square Top Mountain to the east-northeast. Decatur Mountain lies above and west of the lake. Mountain goats patrol the heights behind the lake, part of a expanding band that roams the Divide between Square Top Mountain and Loveland Pass. By July, there is a beautiful, midsummer display of wildflowers along the final stretch of the trail. Fishing at the lake is rated as good for cutthroat trout. Return in the fall, when the entire Geneva Creek valley puts on its best colors.

To get here from Keystone: To get to the trailhead; take Montezuma Road (off Highway near River Run Village) east. Follow this down and take a left turn onto CO Rd. 260, follow this passed the turn CO Rd. 263. Follow this down a ways to find the trailhead. Parking for the trailhead is just off of 260. Park along the road and enjoy the area.

 

Frisco

Eccles Pass (9.5 miles/ vertical 2800 ft.) - This is a challenging hike that consists of a fairly steady, steep ascent to the pass at 11,900′ that will reward you with some of the most stunning scenery in Colorado. As you proceed along the rushing of Meadow Creek through the forest, the trail levels off frequently enough to provide brief respites from the climb! After a couple miles you enter a clearing dotted with mining ruins, which are fun to see and the valley is pretty serene and nice too. Follow the trail and ascend even higher to reach Eccles Pass and you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Buffalo Mountain and surrounding area. Even though this is a difficult hike it is worth the views and solitude.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon and take I-70 going west. Drive I-70 west to Frisco exit 203. As you exit onto the traffic circle, take the dirt road that leaves the circle on the west side and parallels the interstate. Parking and the trailhead are about a half mile down this road.

Lily Pad Lake Trail (5 miles/ vertical 700 ft.) - The Lily Pad Lake Trail promises a delightful day hike for every hiker. Because the lake is located in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, bicycles are not permitted here—a refreshing change for a trail located close to an urban area. Don’t let the first 100-yard climb up the access road near the Wildernest subdivision discourage little hikers.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon and take I-70 going west. Drive I-70 west to Frisco exit 203. As you exit onto the traffic circle, take the dirt road that leaves the circle on the west side and parallels the interstate. Parking and the trailhead are about a half mile down this road.

Meadow Creek Trail (9 miles/ vertical 700 ft.) – While warm in July and August, this is a great early and late season hike or as a “tune-up” for more challenging treks later. The trail begins with a steady ascent for about half of a mile to a junction with Lily Pad Trail. Take the Lily Pad Trail (on your right) and soon you will be treated to the sights and sounds of Meadow Creek, a footbridge, and great vistas of Frisco, and Lake Dillon. As you continue the ascent the vistas keep getting better! Also, look for Peak One as it towers above Mt. Royal and Victoria to the south. Soon, the trail leaves the creek and ascends a small rise leading to the first of two lakes. Follow the trail between the two lakes around the second lake on your right (north). Continue for a half mile on the trail past the second lake (really just a small pond covered with lilies) to the junction with the Salt Lick Trail. Here the trail begins its descent into Salt Lick Gulch, or you can loop back around to your car in Frisco.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon and take I-70 going west. Drive I-70 west to Frisco exit 203. As you exit onto the traffic circle, take the dirt road that leaves the circle on the west side and parallels the interstate. Parking and the trailhead are about a half mile down this road.

Rainbow Lake (1 mile/ vertical minimal) – Rainbow Lake is the perfect hike for the whole family. Enjoy a well marked trail through the woods, over bridges and streams. Make sure you bring a picnic and fishing rod for this is a delightful place to relax and enjoy your day. The views of the valley are gorgeous and Rainbow Lake is amazing in the twilight of the summer.

To get here from Keystone: In order to access all 3 of these hikes, take Highway 6 towards Dillon and take I-70 west to Frisco. Take the Summit Blvd. (CO Rt. 9) exit turning left off the highway. Then turn right onto Main Street; park at the Frisco Park-n-Ride at the end of Frisco Main Street near Hwy I-70. Take the paved bike path to the Mt. Royal trailhead.

Mount Royal (3.8 miles/ vertical 1300 ft.) – The trail to Masontown is a pleasant family hike. A side trip to the east of town can provide fun exploring the area for mining relics. The hike from Masontown to Mount Royal and farther up to the ridge of Mount Victoria is strenuous but passes more mine and cabin ruins. The upward grunt is worth the climb for the views, especially the straight-down, birds-eye view of Interstate 70 in Tenmile Canyon. Limber pine, which grow in harsh conditions, live on the ridges. Four different hikes along these trails make the area well worth exploring during several visits. While walking along the paved recreational path toward the Mount Royal Trail, imagine the sounds of the old trains which steamed along here. Two railroads served Frisco. The first, the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG), came from Leadville down Tenmile Canyon, arriving in town in summer 1882. The Denver, South Park & Pacific, later called the Colorado & Southern (C&S), chooed and chugged down the recreational path from Breckenridge arriving in Frisco in July 1883. At mile 0.3 the depot for the C&S once stood. Across the field you can see the tailings from the Frisco Tunnel, which operated into the 1930s.

To get here from Keystone: In order to access all 3 of these hikes, take Highway 6 towards Dillon and take I-70 west to Frisco. Take the Summit Blvd. (CO Rt. 9) exit turning left off the highway. Then turn right onto Main Street; park at the Frisco Park-n-Ride at the end of Frisco Main Street near Hwy I-70. Take the paved bike path to the Mt. Royal trailhead that will lead you to Mt. Royal and Peak One.

Tenmile Peak Traverse – Peak 1 (8.7 miles/ vertical 4353 ft.) – Three highly acclaimed hikes in the Frisco area are Mount Royal, Peak One, and Rainbow Lake. Most enjoyed in the fall with the change of the aspen leaves, the views are spectacular anytime. Once at the top you are rewarded with a grand view of the town all the way to the Gore Range, over Lake Dillon to the Continental Divide. If feeling quite ambitious and have ample supply of food and water, a journey up to Peak One (advanced) might be your next stop. Follow the high-flying American flag waving in the wind that was placed on top after 9/11.

To get here from Keystone: In order to access all 3 of these hikes, take Highway 6 towards Dillon and take I-70 west to Frisco. Take the Summit Blvd. (CO Rt. 9) exit turning left off the highway. Then turn right onto Main Street; park at the Frisco Park-n-Ride at the end of Frisco Main Street near Hwy I-70. Take the paved bike path to the Mt. Royal trailhead that will lead you to Mt. Royal and Peak One.

 

 

Gold Hill

Gold Hill (1.4 miles/ vertical minimal) – For those who desire a short easy jaunt to preview a nice collection of about 50 different kinds of wildflowers, Gold Hill Trail is just right. In early summer this hike produces an especially fine phlox display—an illusion of heat-proof snow. Glimpses of the Blue River valley surrounded by mountains are an added attraction. Shaded for the most part, Gold Hill Trail rises gently to a level meadow area. In the first half of June, calypso orchids hide here and there in forest duff, followed by flurries of phlox in July. This is the flowery portion of Gold Hill Trail, which is a small segment of the ambitious Colorado Trail. If you are looking for a short, quick family walk, this is perfect in the height of summer and early summer when the flowers begin to bloom.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 and turn off onto Swan Mountain Road (which will become Hwy 9) and follow Hwy 9 south for 6 miles to a parking area on the west side of the road. A sign marks the trailhead.

Gold Hill Trailhead to Copper Mountain (12.8 miles one-way/ vertical 3600 ft.) –  This is a steady, 6-mile, 3600 foot ascent of the east side, crossing the ridge between Peaks 5 and 6 at nearly 12,500 feet, then a descent of 3,000 feet on the west side in about 6 miles. However, while you are up on the tundra, you are rewarded with some spectacular views! The snow fields tend to linger until mid-July and might present a problem before the end of June. If snow is a problem, there is a bike path to Frisco and up Tenmile Canyon, rejoining the Colorado Trail at Copper Mountain, but you’ll miss the great views. There are some nice camping areas on the trail, and this is a great overnight hiking trip and a great introduction into hiking the Colorado Trail.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 and turn off onto Swan Mountain Road (which will become Hwy 9) and follow Hwy 9 south for 6 miles to a parking area on the west side of the road. A sign marks the trailhead. This is a one way, you can park your other car in Copper Mountain at the Wheeler Flats Parking Lot: Take I-70 to Exit 195. Take CO Hwy 91 south and turn left just after an overpass. Go past a Conoco gas station for .4 miles to the Wheeler Flats Parking Lot.

 

Copper Mountain

Wheeler Lakes (5.6 miles/ vertical 1300 ft.) - At the south end of the Gore Range are Wheeler Lakes, which lie inside the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Named for Judge John Wheeler who established an 1880s town that was destroyed by fire and avalanche, Wheeler Lakes offer a great day-hike convenient to I-70. Well over 80 species of wildflowers populate the trail, which journeys through varied habitats and landscape and ends with lakeside bloomers. The beginning of the trail travels adjacent to the freeway, and then the Gore Range Trail heads up a south-facing slope. Wheeler Lakes are reached through traversing extensive meadows preceding a gentler final ascent. Wildflower Alert: A great diversity of flora and scenery give this convenient trail an edge; perfect in early summer, but also lovely in early fall.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back to I-70- and take I-70 west  to the Copper Mt. exit(195). The trailhead is on your right just before you cross the bridge over I-70. There is a small parking area here. However, you need to continue across the bridge and park in the “free skiers” lot at Copper Mountain and then walk the short distance back to the trailhead.

Searle Pass Trail (11.4 miles/ vertical 2400 ft.) – The trail climbs a wide meadow up to timberline, but is never that far from a mixed forest. The trees occasionally come closer to create smaller meadows. The ridge to the east is Jacque Ridge. This is one of those hikes that offers tall, wavy grass in which your pet can roll to his heart’s content. However, if you don’t want to leave the trail to find water, take plenty of it not only for yourself but also for your dog. This area gets hot in the height of summer, better in early summer or fall.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back to I-70- and take I-70 west  to the Copper Mt. exit(195). The trailhead is on your right just before you cross the bridge over I-70. There is a small parking area here. However, you need to continue across the bridge and park in the “free skiers” lot at Copper Mountain and then walk the short distance back to the trailhead.

Mayflower Gulch (2 miles/ vertical minimal) – This short, easy two mile hike leads to the site of Old Boston Mine and some of the most spectacular scenery in the Tenmile range. Hike the road to the right of Mayflower Creek past occasional mining ruins to a clearing just below the mine site. Go left at the fork into the clearing to explore the ruins and the awesome views of the mountains. This is a popular trail for cross country skiers but in the summer season it provides a perfect place for a family picnic and some relaxation.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and take I-70 west to the Copper Mountain exit (exit 195). Take route 91 south toward Leadville for 5.8 miles. The parking lot for the Mayflower Gulch trailhead is on your left.

Uneva Pass Trail (9 miles/ vertical 2200 ft.) - The Gore Range is named after the Irish baronet Sir St. George Gore, who hunted in the Rockies between 1854 and 1857 and explored the range of mountains that today bears his name. He reportedly killed 2000 buffalo in nearby Middle Park and hundreds of other animals. Gore Range is famous for its sharp ridges and the solitude its rugged terrain offers. The centerpiece of this area is the Eagles Nest Wilderness, where leash regulations for your dog apply. The Gore Range Trail leads north into the wilderness and the terrain ranges from easy to difficult. You can continue a few miles more to the top of Uneva Peak and this is a great place to bring your dog. Also, you will pass by the Lost Lake on your way to the top. This is also a great area for an overnight hiking trip.

To get here from Keystone: The trailhead is tricky to find. Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and take  I-70 west The trailhead is located off the highway just passed the exit 195 on the right hand side of the road. The trail runs close to the highway for about a mile. IT is hard to find, but once you have it you are golden.

 

 

 

Breckenridge

Barney Ford Trail (4.8 miles/ vertical 780 ft.) This hike actually follows three trails: Carter Park, Moonstone, and Barney Ford. The majority of the hike is on the Barney Ford Trail, which was built along old mining trails and ditches past mine ruins and plenty of glory holes. Except for the first grunt uphill on the Carter Park Trail, the hike through coniferous forest is fairly gentle and gorgeous. Enjoy the crisp mountain air as you hike through the abandoned mines.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge. From Breckinridge take Boreas pass road up the mountain till you get to baldy road and turn left. Once on Baldy road turn left on sally barber for couple hundred yards and you will see a pole with small signs on it at the Barney Ford trail head. Once on the trail make sure you follow the arrow that points to the right. Take this trail down till you cross a road and it will turn into the moonstone trail.

Cucumber Gulch (2.2 miles/ minimal) – This easy hike along the edges of Cucumber Gulch provides not only great views of the Tenmile Range, but also glimpses of a fen wetland that is considered prime habitat for the endangered boreal toad. Hike in the early morning or evening when the wild inhabitants come out. Moose, bears, beavers, foxes, coyotes, ospreys, bald eagles, and various duck species might be seen, so be careful. The Town of Breckenridge has designated Cucumber Gulch a wildlife preserve because of its sensitive natural resources. Trails do not enter the fragile gulch, but travel its edges and please do not enter the gulch as to protect these endangered species. To experience Cucumber Gulch, hike first to the overlook near Shock Hill, which provides a great view of the entire gulch and its various ponds nestled in the forest.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge; heading south, turn right onto Park Avenue, then right onto Mountain Thunder Drive/Sawmill Dr. You can park on the side of the road by the trailhead or park in the public lot on Park Avenue.

Hoosier Pass Loop (3 miles/ vertical 700 ft.) – This is the perfect hike for those who want the exhilaration of hiking above tree line without the lung popping elevation gains often required to get there. You begin your hike at the sign board in the parking lot. A couple four wheel drive roads lead from the sign or directly above (north) it. The hike gives you awesome views of Mt. Lincoln and other perks to being above the tree line. Cairns and a faint path mark the way until you begin your descent to complete the loop. This is an arduous hike, so be prepared and bring some buddies to make it a perfect hiking day.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge; Proceed south on Route 9 from Breckenridge to the top of Hoosier Pass about 9.7 miles from the last traffic light in town. Parking is on your right at the continental divide sign.

Spruce Creek Loop (4 miles/ vertical 690 ft.) – Follow the Spruce Creek trail through a lush evergreen forest for about 1.8 miles to the intersection with Wheeler Trail. This junction is a good place to admire the views on your right as you continue on for about .3 mile to where the Spruce Creek Trail emerges from the forest and crosses the 4WD Spruce Creek Rd. This is a great early season hike or a spectacular winter snow shoe adventure. If you hike in the winter, snow may obscure the roadway so stay left at the first junction that appears shortly after you started down. This is also a popular area for cross country skiers. Spruce Creek Loop is a beginner hike, but a bit long so take plenty of water and enjoy this awesome area!

To get here from Keystone: Take Sawn Mountain Road off Highway 6 and follow it to Breckenridge. Continue south out of Breckenridge on U.S.9. At about 2.4 miles turn right on to Spruce Creek Rd. and proceed for about 1.2 miles to the well marked parking area and trailhead. After about .1 mile after your turn onto Spruce Creek Rd. from route 9, Spruce Creek Rd. makes a sharp left.

Iowa Hill (1.2 miles/ vertical 310 ft.) - The Iowa Hill Hydraulic Placer Mine is explored along this historic interpretive trail. The hikes takes you back 145 years in history to the days when miners panned for gold then developed techniques using water cannons, called hydraulic giants, to wash the sides of gulches into sluice boxes to capture gold particles. Mining History News rates this trail as “one of the best hydraulic mining exhibits in the world.” A restored two-story log Miners ’Boarding House on the trail can be toured by appointment. This is a gorgeous and interesting area and is great for the whole family.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge; Proceed south on Route 9 and take Valley Brook Road turning right off the exit. Follow this to Airport Road and turn right. Follow signs to the trailhead and park at the trailhead and enjoy your hike.

Mohawk Lakes (7 miles/ vertical 1700 ft.) - If there’s one intermediate family hike that encapsulates everything wonderful about Summit County, it is the Mohawk Lake trail. From sweeping vistas, historic ruins and ore cars to waterfalls and close-up views of massive, rugged peaks, the Mohawk Trail is a great, 7mile trail that should not be missed. Kids will enjoy exploring a private cabin located near the settlement ruins that is available for use as a storm shelter. From Mayflower Lake it is a steady climb of about one mile to the old mill, the falls, and the lower Mohawk Lake. The trail will eventually climb upward to Mohawk Lake.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge; Proceed south on Route 9 passed Breckenridge and turn on right onto Crown Drive. Follow Crown Drive (it will turn into Spruce Creek Rd.). Follow Spruce Creek Road and you will find a well marked parking area and trailhead.

Crystal Lakes Trail (8 miles/ vertical 1500 ft.) –Crystal Lake Trail is a long arduous climb, but well worth it. Here, you encounter close up views of 13,852′ Mt. Crystal and interesting mining ruins. A short scramble from the lower (eastern) end of Upper Crystal will reward you with spectacular views of Lower Crystal & Goose. There are a lot of switch backs and uphill so be prepared for a taxing climb.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge; Proceed south on Route 9 and continue to drive south of route 9 about 2.3 miles from the last traffic light in Breckenridge and turn right on Spruce Creek Road (County Road #800)  into “The Crown” subdivision. Turn onto Spruce Creek Drive and climb 1.2 miles to the 2WD trailhead. This is the Spruce Creek Trailhead-park here. Walk up the road for about .25 miles and take the fork to your right.

 

Arapahoe Basin/ Loveland Pass

Baker Mountain Trail (2 miles/ vertical 448 Ft.) - Baker Mountain with a steep but short hike straight uphill from the top of Loveland Pass is an easier summit to achieve than its neighbors Sniktau Mountain and Grizzly Peak. You start at 12,000 feet and only have to climb about 500 feet in the thin air. Although not as distinctive as its neighbors, it’s much easier to summit to climb.

To get here from Keystone: Take highway 6 east from Dillon to the Loveland Pass summit. Park on your right by the Continental Divide sign (elevation 11,990′) and take the steps up to the trail.

Grizzly Peak Trail (5 miles/ vertical 1637 ft.) – This mountain looks like a grizzly bear in comparison to the soft, round, teddy bear shapes of Sniktau and Baker mountains. It is a spectacular ridge walk and steep scramble at the end that is clearly worth the effort for the views. It requires a bit of a rollercoaster climb since the ridge between Baker and Grizzly drops more than 150 feet and that altitude has to be regained going and coming. Although you can continue to Grays and Torrey Peaks from Grizzly, that would be a very long trek.

To get here from Keystone: Take highway 6 east from Dillon to the Loveland Pass summit. Park on your right by the Continental Divide sign (elevation 11,990′) and take the steps up to the trail.

Sniktau Mountain Trail (4 miles/ vertical 1300 Ft.) – This is a great hike for anyone that wants a true alpine experience but doesn’t have the time, or energy, to spend hours hiking  to get above tree line. Although a relatively short hike, the trail  gains about 1000′ in elevation in the first mile so this probably
should not be the first thing you attempt if you’ve just arrived in Summit County from the plains! The first section of the trail is clearly visible as it ascends the spine of the ridge leading to the first summit.

To get here from Keystone: Take highway 6 east from Dillon to the Loveland Pass summit. Park on your right by the Continental Divide sign (elevation 11,990′) and take the steps up to the trail.

McCullough Gulch Trail (3.4 miles/ 1100 ft.) - One of my personal favorites, McCullough Gulch Trail has a waterfall. As you follow the path for nearly a mile, several stream crossings bring you close to the falls cascading down from the ledge up ahead. Many trails lead to various levels of the falls but they return to the main trail that can be followed up the fairly steep ledge to the alpine lake at the top. Here you can explore the lake or just enjoy the serenity of one of Summit County’s most idyllic settings.

To get here from Keystone: Take Swan Mountain Road off Highway 6 to Breckenridge; Proceed south on Route 9 for 7.6 miles to Blue Lakes Drive (#850). Turn right onto Blue Lakes drive and continue for about 100 yards to McCullough Gulch Rd.(#851). Turn right and continue for 2.2 miles, staying left at the y-junction, to the parking area at the trailhead.

 

 

 

Green Mountain Reservoir

Eaglesmere Loop Trail (6.8 miles/ vertical 1750 ft.) – Hikers are rewarded with beautiful vistas overlooking Lower Cataract lake soon after beginning a steady uphill ascent through an aspen forest. Views of the Williams Fork Range and Eagles Nest Peak (13,342′) continue to appear until you enter a thick, dark, green pine forest after about two miles. At 2.8 miles you will encounter a sign where the Eaglesmere trail meets the Gore Range trail. You turn right here for what will prove to be the longest half mile of the hike. A fairly steep ascent suddenly changes to a downhill trek that will lead to another sign for the Gore Range trail. The sign shows the trail going right and left but ignore it and go straight to the lakes which are only a couple hundred yards ahead. There are two lakes, the smaller one just north of the larger.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon to connect with Colorado 9 (Highway 6 turns into Route 9). Take Rt. 9 north Drive 16 miles north from Silverthorne on Colorado 9. Turn left onto Heeney Road and go about 5.25 miles to County Road 1725. Turn left and continue for a little over 2 miles until you come to a fork where you will see a sign for Surprise Lake trailhead on your left and Eaglesmere Lakes on the right. Take the right fork and go about .2 miles to the parking area.

Willow Falls (8.75 miles/ vertical 900 ft.) – For the first 2.6 miles you follow the Mesa Cortina Trail to its junction with the Gore Range Trail. As you approach the junction of the Mesa Cortina and Gore Range Trails you will cross South Willow Creek.  At the trail junction you should proceed west-southwest (straight) on the Gore Range Trail. After about a mile you will notice the Buffalo Cabin Trail entering on your left. The falls are about three quarters of a mile ahead. This is an absolutely gorgeous area and, once again, one of my personal favorites. Don’t forget to bring a camera!

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon to connect with Colorado 9 (Highway 6 turns into Route 9). Drive north on route 9 from the Silverthorne exit off I-70 (exit 205). Turn left onto Wildernest Rd. at the 7-11 store across from a Wendy’s. Bear right at the fork after crossing the bridge and make an immediate left onto Royal Buffalo Drive (auto dealership is on this corner). Drive a mile to Lakeview Drive and turn right onto Lakeview. Proceed to Aspen Drive and turn left and continue to the Mesa Cortina Trailhead with ample parking on your right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vail

Bighorn Creek (4 miles/ vertical minimal) – Bighorn Creek Trail is the least taxing trail near Vail—except at the onset. Incorporating some eighty wildflower species along its first two miles, this is a good montane zone starter trail for Vail hikers. With the exception of the initial sharp half-mile ascent, the trail eases up a long scenic valley, alternating between shade and sun. Quaking aspen trees dominate the route and in autumn, a hike under the aspen would be like a journey down the aisle of a natural cathedral streaming with golden, ambient light. A gorgeous, must do hike in fall.

To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon and hop onto I-70 going west towards Vail. Exit I-70 at the easternmost exit (180) and take an immediate left onto Big Horn Road to go under I-70. Follow Big Horn Road back east for less than a mile to Columbine Drive. Take a left on Columbine Drive and go back under I-70 and up the hill a couple hundred yards. You’ll find a small parking lot on the left side of the street and you’re all set to go.

Booth Falls (3.8 miles/ vertical 1800 ft.) – Another must-do hike in Summit County. Booth Falls is more arduous than some of the others, but well worth the journey. The trail is littered with wildflowers and grand scenery, with the falls as the grand finale. For those so inclined, an additional four miles beyond Booth Falls continue up to Booth Lake. The first part of the trail rises steeply before easing through flowery areas and then continues ascending, most sharply as it nears Booth Falls itself. Once again, a must do hike in Summit County.

How to get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and hop onto I-70. Then take the East Vail exit (Exit 180). Head west 0.85 miles to the Booth Falls Road. Turn right and follow this road for 0.2 miles to the trailhead parking area.