13,000 ft Summit County Hikes
Summit Counties top five hikes at 13,000 feet
Many of Summit’s 13,000-foot peaks are clumped around Breckenridge—east, west, and south of town. Other, more obscure 13ers dot the Gore Range and western Front Range near Arapahoe Basin, but in the name of accessibility, we chose these six.
Peak 9 and Peak 10
If you don’t mind driving up a long, bumpy dirt road, this summit two-fer can be done in relatively short time. Follow the Peak 9 service road up from Beaver Run Resort, past the restaurant and Mercury SuperChair, all the way to the flat, open basin below Peak 10’s Fourth of July Bowl. Park there and hike up Peak 9’s east ridge. Descend back to the road, and follow its switchbacks south up to Peak 10’s east ridge and the summit. Voilà: two 13ers in less than three hours.
Helen is the gently sloping tabletop peak you see when looking south from Breckenridge Main Street. It won’t be the most radical adventure of your life, but it affords spectacular views of bigger, craggier summits nearby, and your quads are guaranteed to hurt. Start at the Spruce Creek Trailhead off of Spruce Creek Road, two miles south of town. Hike up Spruce Creek Road for a mile, then turn right on Aqueduct Road, and continue to the gate about 100 yards up. This is where the trail ends. Take a left up a steep, forested pitch, and keep plodding up Helen’s long east ramp on tundra until you reach the summit. Don’t be surprised if you see a few shaggy mountain goats along the way.
Every town has a backyard peak, and for Breckenridge that peak is “Baldy.” Mostly the challenge is psychological: you encounter three false summits on the undulating yet straightforward spine. Start from the Baldy Road bus stop or drive up the dirt road until you’re ready to hoof it, keeping in mind that the longer you spend on foot, the more wildflowers you’re going to see (Baldy is known for its indian paintbrush). Also, a word of caution: because you spend so much time on the exposed summit ridge, be particularly wary of approaching thunderstorms, and give yourself plenty of time to get down if you see one coming, usually from the west.
There is no fast and easy way to summit Jacque Peak above Copper Mountain. But as one of the area’s rare standalone 13ers, it presents a unique and challenging adventure. Starting from Center Village, hike to the top of the American Flyer chairlift, then continue up the treed rib to Union Mountain (12,313 feet). From there, head southwest along the plateau to Jacque’s scree-covered summit ridge and a final push to the top.
One can only imagine how much more crowded Pacific would be if only it were 50 feet taller. As it is, you almost never see anyone there except on weekends. There is no well-trodden trail to the top; instead, the best route involves ascending the McCullough Gulch Trail south of Breckenridge until it peters out above White Falls, then hiking to the northwest corner of the basin and scrambling up a loose trail that reaches a saddle between Atlantic and Pacific peaks. Continue north above Pacific Tarn—reputed to be the highest lake in North America, at 13,400 feet—to Pacific’s toothy summit. There are no technical sections, but you travel on scree for a while and should plot the route on a map before setting out.