Written by Jess Hoover
The view from my bedroom window peeks through towering pines and opens straight onto Peak 8’s now nearly naked Horseshoe Bowl. And, if the perfect bluebird days weren’t indication enough, the snowless slopes let us know that summer has finally arrived in the high country. Summertime in Breckenridge is just as wonderful as winter, and there are endless opportunities to get outside and play. From mountain biking to trail running and hiking, these days my greatest challenge lies in deciding which of my favorite activities to engage in. Yet, as I awaken each morning and gaze at the mountains, I feel drawn to slow my pace and hike, making sure to take the time to notice all the sights, sounds, and smells of the alpine environment.
Here in Summit County, we’re fortunate to have numerous trails for all ability levels, all within just a short distance from wherever you’re stationed. Here, I’ll list a few of trails that I daydream about when the snow is still deep and it seems like summer will never come. For each, I’ll provide a difficulty rating, total mileage, directions to the trailhead, and a brief description of the route. Keep in mind that many of these are out-and-back trails, which means if time and/or energy run short, you can always turn around and head back to civilization!
Total distance: Up to 7.8 miles
Getting there: This trail is easily accessed from downtown Breckenridge. Park downtown (the closets lot is F-Lot) and walk up Village Road towards the Beaver Run. After you pass under the overpass, turn left into the Beaver Run bus station. You could also take either the brown or yellow Breckenridge Free Ride buses and get off at the Beaver Run stop. From the bus stop, walk onto the slopes between the Beaver Run Chair and the Coppertop Restaurant. Keep straight across the hill, and look for the brown trailhead sign on the other side of the ski run.
The hike: The shady Burro Trail is marked with blue diamond blazes and meanders through pine forest alongside a picturesque creek. The trail is an out-and-back, so go as far as you’d like! The Burro Trail ends at Spruce Creek Road.
Lily Pad Lakes
Total distance: 2.6 miles roundtrip.
Getting there: From either Breckenridge or Frisco, head north on Highway 9 towards I-70 (from Breck, you want to drive towards Frisco). Continue straight on Highway 9 past the on-ramp to I-70 East and enter the roundabout. Take the 3rd exit (a dirt road paralleling I-70 W) and follow the dirt road until you reach the parking lot for the Meadow Creek trailhead.
The hike: Starting from the Meadow Creek trailhead, hike up steep switchbacks through Aspen forest. Just over a half mile into the hike, the trail splits. Follow the marked path on the right towards Lily Pad Lake. After a short distance, you’ll cross a bridge and enter the Eagles Nest Wilderness area. Here, the trail still trends upwards, although it winds much more gently through Aspen and evergreen forests and open meadows before finally ending at the aptly named Lily Pad Lake.
Total distance: Up to 16 miles
Getting there: From downtown Breckenridge, drive up Ski Hill Road towards Breckenridge Ski Resort. At the base of Peak 8, follow the road along a bend to the right and continue on Ski Hill Road towards the base of Peak 7. Just past the Grand Lodge, look for the trail head in the woods on the left. There is a small parking area on the left as well.
The Peaks Trail can also be accessed from Frisco! From Frisco Main Street, turn right onto CO Highway 9 (heading towards Breckenridge). At the following traffic light (intersection between Highway 9 and Peak One Boulevard), turn right. Continue on Peak One Boulevard approximately 100 yards and turn right. Almost immediately, the road ”Ts”; turn left onto Miner’s Creek Road. In about .3 miles, you will reach the parking area. Continue on Miner’s Creek Road on foot. When you reach a small stream crossing, you’ve arrived at the junction with the Peak’s Trail, a single track trail on the left hand side of the road. A brown sign post will identify the Peak’s Trail so you know you’re in the right spot!
The hike: The Peaks Trail is one of my go-to places for a great hike, run or bike ride in Breckenridge. A rocky and rooty wooded path with a few flat and mild sections, this trail is rife with the scent of pine, babbling streams, and beautiful vistas. It wanders up and down for about 8 miles between Breckenridge and Frisco. Set out for as long as you’d like, and when you’re ready, turn around and head back to the trailhead. The intrepid can walk the whole way to Frisco and take the bus back to Breckenridge (or vice versa). And for a truly great adventure, hike Breck to Frisco and back (or Frisco to Breck)!
Total distance: 6.7 miles
Getting there: From Breckenridge, drive south on Highway 9 (heading away from Frisco/I-70). About 2 miles from the last light in town, just past Goose Pasture Tarn, turn right onto Spruce Creek Road (there is a sign on the right that says, “The Crown). The trailhead is located 1.2 miles from the turn-off. At the first “Y,” veer left. The road “Ts” shortly thereafter; keep left to stay on Spruce Creek Road. Drive approximately one mile on narrow, dirt road to the parking lot and trailhead. As you drive into the parking lot, the trailhead will be in the left-hand corner.
The hike: Start out on the Spruce Creek Trail. This is wooded path that leads gently upwards. Fair warning: In early July there were still a few muddy patches, but hiking shoes were made to get dirty! After a while, you’ll come to a rather large pond – a great place to take a break. Continuing on, you’ll come to a gravel road. Turn left and follow the road around a bend. You’ll see the Spruce Creek Diversion straight ahead. Look for the trail on the right. The trail continues upwards for another half mile before it splits. The tail towards Mohawk Lakes continues to the left; Mayflower Lake is just a short walk down the path to the left. This is another good rest spot. From here, the trail begins its ascent in earnest! There is some fun (and easy) rock scrambling that kids (or your own inner child) will love. Reach the old mining cabin, and turn around for a great view. Keep on keepin’ on as you ascend higher and higher, stop to check out the waterfall, and finally top out at another mining ruin. From here, it’s hard to find the exact trail, but look for cairns (piles of rocks) which act as trail markers. After this point, I ran into a few lingering patches of snow and had to gingerly cross a run-off stream, but you’re almost there! Lower Mohawk Lake is just a few hundred yards away. If you want, follow the trail around the left-hand side of the lake and in another half mile, you’ll reach Upper Mohawk Lake. It’s worth the breathlessness, I promise!
Total distance: About 10 miles
Getting there: From either Breckenridge or Frisco, head north on Highway 9 towards I-70 (from Breckenridge, you want to drive towards Frisco). Continue straight on Highway 9 past the on-ramp to I-70 East and enter the roundabout. Take the 3rd exit (a dirt road paralleling I-70 W) and follow the dirt road until you reach the parking lot for the Meadow Creek trailhead.
The hike: Although strenuous, this is one of my favorite hikes in the area. The views at the top of Eccles Pass are breath-taking (that is, if you have any more breath to give away after the hike up!), the trail passes by mining relics, and in late summer, high mountain meadows are filled with wildflowers. Begin the hike at the Meadow Creek trailhead. After hiking up steep switchbacks through Aspen forest, the trail splits. The Meadow Creek trail heads left and up through pine forests before finally giving way to open meadows. Navigate a few stream crossings, and don’t forget to turn around occasionally for spectacular views of Lake Dillon. When you get to the junction with the Gore Trail, you’ll see Eccles Pass ahead of you to the right. Follow the Gore Trail as it switchbacks up to the Pass. At the top, catch your breath, and take in the panoramic views of the Gore Range and the 10 Mile Range. Descend the same trail to the parking lot.
What to Know Before You Go
Before embarking on any of these hikes, make sure you’re prepared! Always carry water with you, and for longer excursions, definitely take along some food — you never want to bonk on the trail. But make sure you bring along a trash bag so you can pack-out trash you generate while one the trail (yes, even the occasional tissue you use as emergency toilet paper). Our forests are beautiful because we take care of them. As trail conditions are variable, it’s a great idea to wear sturdy hiking boots or sneakers with good soles. And because we’re at high altitude, the sun is particularly strong, and sunscreen is essential even on cloudy days. However, even though we’re accustomed to blue-bird sunny days in Summit County, it’s not unusual to have a brief afternoon thunderstorm in the summertime. Take a raincoat with you, and be ready to turn around if threatening weather rolls in.
It’s also a good idea to know your limits! Unless you live at altitude, what may seem like a relatively easy hike might be more strenuous than you anticipated. Again, make sure you drink plenty of water, and know the symptoms of altitude sickness. If you or anyone in your party begins to feel ill, don’t be afraid to turn around. The trails will be here the next time you visit!
Many people recommend taking a compass just in case you get lost, but it would also be beneficial to pick up a trail map! The Breckenridge Welcome Center sells trail maps which show trails in and around the town of Breckenridge. You could also buy a hiking book – The Summit Hiker is a terrific option for folks who want to get out and explore more of the hikes in the area! It’s available for purchase at The Next Page Bookstore in Frisco (409 Main Street).
For lodging options in Breckenridge and Frisco, visit www.summitrentals.com!