The snows of last winter have retreated to all but the highest mountain peaks and summer is in full swing in Breckenridge. Hiking season is now and all of the best trails are open and dry.
Breckenridge is a paradise for hikers with literally hundreds of miles of hiking trails for all levels all around. Everybody at the best of Breckenridge office has a favorite trail they like to hike or run. We polled the office and here are the top five vote getters among the staff:
- Mohawk Lakes: Listed by the Summit County Explorer as Intermediate, this trail garnered the most votes in a landslide. The Mohawk lakes Trail is an absolute favorite hike that offers rewarding exercise (but not too much!), awesome views, mining ruins and of course pristine high alpine lakes. The trailhead is pretty close to town. Just go about 2.4 miles south on Highway 9 towards Hoosier Pass and turn right on Spruce Creek Road and drive for about 1.2 miles to a well marked parking area and trailhead. The trail is a seven mile “there and back” that starts in a think forest. After about 2 miles the trail heads towards Mayflower Lake and then on to Continental Falls which is a nice rocky waterfall. After the falls the trail climbs up to Lower Mohawk Lake. When you reach Lower Mohawk Lake, follow the left bank around and go about another half mile to upper Mohawk Lake. You will not be disappointed.
- Lily Pad Lake: This short and rewarding hike was discussed around the office as “the perfect after work hike.” Lily Pad Lake offers many spectacular views and of course an alpine lake that rivals Mohawk Lakes but is only a third of the distance at about 2 and a half miles total. This is considered an “easy” hike by most standards. There are two distinct ways to get to the lake and the office was split on which way is better.
- The closest trailhead from Breckenridge is located at the Frisco/Breckenridge exit on Interstate 70 so just drive North on Highway 9 out of Breckenridge like you were going to the highway and follow the dirt road out of the traffic circle right before the on ramp to I70 west towards Copper Mountain. This trail is called the Meadow Creek Trail and climbs slowly but steadily for about a mile before coming to an intersection to Lily Pad Lake. From there the trail winds on for about a half mile or so to the lake itself. Lily Pad Lake is tucked in the trees and is covered with Lily pads. The bigger lake is not actually Lily Pad Lake but is beautiful and has great views of Peak 1.
- The other trailhead is at the top of Wildernest in Silverthorne and literally comes from the other side of the mountain. To get here follow the same directions above to I70 East and go back to exit 205 – Silverthorne/Dillon. Turn left from the off ramp to Highway 9 north. Then turn left at the second stoplight, Wildernest road. There is a 7-11 on the corner here. Follow this road (turns into Ryan Gulch Road about a third of the way up). Go about 3.5 miles to the very end where the road loops and there is parking. This is the Lily Pad Trail. The trail head is to the left and starts on a short but fairly steep hill. This soon levels out and the trail continues through a forest wetland before ascending gently to the same intersection and then onto the lake. You can walk slow and still get done in less than 2 hours.
- If you are looking for a longer hike and have 2 cars try putting a car at the Wildernest trailhead and starting at Meadow Creek in Frisco. Hike one way through to the Lily Pad trailhead for a great mile hike.
- Baker’s Tank: This popular trail is really close to downtown and is a pretty mellow trail at a high elevation with spectacular views. The trailhead is near the top of Boreas pass road just before the road turns to dirt. To get there go south on Main Street and turn left on Boreas Pass Road at the stoplight by the Conoco gas station. Follow the road for 3.5 miles to the Baker’s Tank Trailhead. The trail is a 6 mile there and back that offers a fairly consistent climb through a dense forest to Baker’s Tank. The tank is an old and well preserved water tank that served the Denver, South Park and Pacific Narrow Gauge Railroad in the late 19th century. If you are looking for more adventure the trail turns to the left at the tank and ascends above tree line to the top of Baldy Peak at 13,684 feet.
- Willow Falls: This trail is really popular in our office as a longer weekend hike. Willow Falls is a set of very nice waterfalls located high up near the top of Red/Buffalo pass in the Gore Range near Silverthorne. To get to the trailhead drive highway 9 north to I70 and take the interstate back to exit 205 Silverthorne/Dillon. Turn left from the off ramp to Highway 9 north. Then turn left at the second stoplight, WIldernest road. There is a 7-11 on the corner here. Follow this road (turns into Ryan Gulch Road about a third of the way up). Go about 3.5 miles to the very end where the road loops and there is parking. This is the same as the Lily Pad Trail above but instead of going to the left Trailhead go to the right side Trailhead. This is the Buffalo Mountain Trail. This is an 8 mile there and back and is considered moderate. Follow this trail around the north flank of Buffalo Mountain and connect with the Gore Range Trail about a mile or so and turn right. The trail soon plunges down for about a half mile and levels out into the high valley that lies between Red and Buffalo Mountains. From here the trail levels out and follows the river gently up to the falls. Retrace your steps to return to the trailhead.
- Carter Park Staircase: This is not exactly a hiking trail. It is more like an exercise challenge that starts in Carter Park. Located at 300 S. high in the southwestern corner of the downtown area of Breckenridge, Carter Park offers a dog park, tennis courts, a rental pavilion and in the winter a great sledding hill. The staircase is a pretty significant hill climb with a series of steps in the middle. Start right behind the tennis court at the trail that switchbacks up and find the long staircase that goes up the big hill. After the stairs end you can choose from 3 trails that continue on. To the right follow this trail for a short twenty five minute loop that ends up over on by the ice rink on Boreas Pass Road (a short walk on French street through Breck Elementary school’s ball field to Carter Park). The trail to the left goes behind the High point neighborhood and branches off into other trails. This can be a little confusing but is a good “there and back.” The middle trail goes up and up, ending at the Baldy Mountain trailhead which is really a beginning if you want to tackle that ascent.
If you are coming to Breckenridge this summer get out and hike! There are tons of resources on hiking trails in Summit. If you are looking for more information on these hikes or looking for other option (and there’s tons) stop by the Breckenridge Welcome Center on Main Street or pick up a Summit Hiker which is for sale at many stores in Breckenridge.
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