Being located in Colorado’s High Country, Breckenridge is surrounded by miles and miles of hiking trails that offer a fantastic variety of different terrain, elevation and of course difficulty levels. So often we have written blogs over the past years that highlight trails (as we should) that are pretty accessible to a large majority of the hiking population. Just recently we posted a blog about three popular hikes to mountain lakes that are really great intermediate hikes. Last year we posted what we think are the top five hikes in Summit County. All fun and good!!
This time of year hiking is one of the most popular summer activities in Breckenridge and Summit County. Hiking in Breckenridge is so accessible that it is kind of a no brainer! Lately here at the office we’ve been talking a lot about what hikes we’ve been going on and we realized that have never really highlighted what we think are the hardest hikes in Breckenridge and Summit County. With so many towering peaks surrounding us we thought it would be cool to talk about the truly painful, lung busting, leg burning hikes you can go out and get bragging rights on. These hikes help make up the best of Breckenridge too! So here are what we think are the top 5 badass hikes in Summit County.
- Bald Mountain
Bald Mountain seems to sit all by itself to the east of downtown Breckenridge. “Baldy” is it is most often called rises an impressive 13,684 feet about sea level is a popular summer and winter hike. While Baldy looks like a single peak it is actually a six mile long ridgeline that divides into two sections. To the southeast is Boreas Mountain which rises to 13,082 and to the northwest is Bald Mountain which is the “true” summit at 13,684.
Baldy is a fairly gentle hike but it is long, has steep sections, is mostly exposed above tree line and of course goes up to almost 14,000 feet so it is an elevation challenge. The easiest way to hike Baldy is to start at the top of Boreas Pass. For a badass hike it is a pretty easy climb to the summit. That being said it is a 2,700 foot elevation gain in 3 miles so that’s like a 270 story building but not too steep. It’s completely exposed above tree line so even mild days offer a nice wind and chilly temps and of course climbing to almost 14,000 feet will inevitably slow you down a bit. All in all it is a totally amazing view and a pretty easy day hike.
To reach the trailhead drive to the south end of Breckenridge on Route 9. Turn left onto Boreas Pass Road. At 3.3 miles the pavement ends but the road is well-graded and is passable by any car. At 9.5 miles from the traffic light, you will reach Boreas Pass.
- Greys and Torreys Peaks
Greys and Torreys make up the “Twin Towers” of Colorado’s Front Range and are two of the three “Fourteeners” that touch Summit County. Torreys is the higher of the two peaks and sits at an impressive 14,267 feet. While these peaks are in and accessible from Summit County the easiest trail starts a little east back through the Eisenhower Tunnel in Clear Creek County. Both mountains offer multiple ways to ascend the summits. Their proximity to Denver and relative ease (for a Fourteener) make this hike wildly popular so go early on weekends if you want to find parking and also to avoid getting struck by lightning in the frequent afternoon storms that pop up in the summer.
Greys and Torreys get their “badassery” not so much from the altitude which is super high or the pitch of the climb or even the 3,600 foot vertical rise you have to climb in order to summit but rather from the 9 mile round trip involved getting there and back. The distance of this hike puts it over the edge. Also the last climb up Torreys is really steep.
To get to the trailhead Take I-70 to the Bakerville exit #221. Drive south over to the dirt parking area near the start of Forest Road 189. Follow the dirt road 3 miles to the summer trailhead. Stay straight and follow the sign for the Grays Peak trailhead. Continue another 2 miles to the trailhead at 11,280’. There are restrooms and a few dispersed camping spots near the parking area.
- Quandary Peak
Quandary Peak is the third Fourteener that touches Summit County and is a bit more difficult than Greys and Torreys. Although Quandary is pretty much the same elevation as Greys and Torreys at 14,265 feet, the climb of 3,450 vertical feet is condensed into about half the distance of Greys and Torreys. The easiest way up is the east ridge which starts south of Breckenridge and ascends the east side of the mountain for just under 3 miles to the summit.
After you clear the trees there is a steep pitch that delivers you onto a thin windswept ridgeline that runs west up to the summit. There is a “false” summit you will be looking at and when you reach that you will realize that is still another thousand feet or so you have to climb to reach the summit. Once you are up on the ridge don’t get too close to the south side. There are 50 degree slopes dropping thousands of feet to Blue Lakes.
To get to the East Ridge trailhead drive 8 miles south of Breckenridge on Highway 9. Turn right on (Blue Lakes) Road. Drive a few hundred yards and turn right on the 851 (McCullough Gulch) Road. Drive 0.1 mile to the signed trailhead and small parking area. If the trailhead lot is full it is ok to park on the side of the 851 road or the overflow lot but don’t park on the side of the 850 road, in front of homes.
- Peak 1
The #1 and #2 hikes are not Fourteeners but are arguably the two most difficult hikes in Summit County. It is the crushing pitch and vertical rise in such short distances that make these 2 hike so badass. Peak 1 is the iconic (pointy) mountain that sits just above Frisco and clearly visible from almost anywhere in the main part of Summit County. Peak 1 is only 12,805 feet but it offers the hiker an almost 4,000 foot climb in about 3 and a half miles. As with all the bad ass hikes it is primarily above tree line and totally exposed to all of the elements. The final 700 feet is a hair raising knife thin ridge walk through a loose scree field. It is non-technical so you don’t need ropes, just don’t have a fear of heights.
The trailhead is really easy to access. From Main street stoplight on Highway 9, head west on Main St. and turn left on turn left at 2nd St. Follow 2nd street to the parking area at the end of the road and the trailhead starts here.
- Buffalo Mountain
If you come through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70 heading west, the first thing you will see looking out towards Dillon and Silverthorne is Buffalo Mountain. Ironically the shortest mountain on this list at 12,777 feet is one of the most visibly imposing mountains in Summit County. You cannot miss the distinctive round hump and huge “crater” like hole in the middle of the mountain. The best views are from Silverthorne and Dillon. Buffalo Mountain edges out Peak 1 as the most badass hike in Summit County based on its ridiculously steep middle section that includes a .6 mile 23% grade. The hike is about 3 miles one way and just over 3,000 vertical feet, but don’t let that fool you. The majority of that 3,000 feet is actually covered in about a mile and a half.
Oh yeah! Also the climb is basically through a loose scree field in an avalanche chute. It’s hard on the way up but it is absolutely brutal on the joints on the way down. The views from the summit are truly stunning especially the view of Dillon Reservoir. One of the most interesting things is although the mountain looks round from down in Silverthorne, from the summit looking down, the back side is a 3,000 foot vertical cliff.
The Trailhead is easy to get to. From the town of Silverthorne turn onto Wildernest Road (7-11 is on the right corner) and follow this road (it turns into Ryan Gulch Road about 1/3rd of the way up) to the very end. Take the trailhead to the right and follow the signs for Buffalo Mountain. After about a mile or so you will know you are on the right trail because you will be climbing a never ending staircase.
If you do decide to tackle one of the hikes do your homework first. They are all achievable for even moderate hikers if you prepare correctly and respect the mountains.
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