Tips for Hiking in Cold and Wet Weather
A combination of driving rain, high winds and temperatures just above freezing, represents some of the most challenging weather that a hiker can face. In these conditions hypothermia and frostbite (if the thermometer subsequently drops below 0°C / 32°F) are a very real possibility. Thankfully, cold-related maladies are far easier to prevent than they are to cure. Here are a dozen useful tips for hikers venturing into inclement environments:
1. Forecast: Always check the forecast before setting out. Adapting is a lot easier if you know what’s coming. This is a good habit to establish irrespective of the climate.
2. Awareness: Watch the weather (forecasts can sometimes be wrong) and know your limitations. If conditions are deteriorating and you’re feeling exhausted, don’t hesitate to set up your shelter and call it a day.
3. Appropriate clothing: If you are hiking in cold, wet and/or windy weather for an extended period of time, it’s not so much a question of staying 100% dry (which is nigh on impossible), as it is maintaining a reasonable level of comfort whilst out on trail.
When backpacking in regions such as Tasmania, Scotland, Lapland, the Pacific Northwest, Tierra del Fuego and Fiordland (i.e. cold, wet and windy), my preference is for multiple lighter layers that dry relatively quickly and retain warmth when wet. For example:
Base layer: 150 or 200 Merino wool long sleeve shirt with zip neck (e.g. Montbell Super Merino Wool M.W. High Neck, Ice Breaker and Patagonia) . I’m a big fan of Merino wool: good warmth to weight ratio, quick drying, feels soft against the skin, and natural antibacterial properties means that it doesn’t smell as much as synthetic garments. I always go with zip neck models for their versatility over a wider range of temperatures.
Insulation Layer: When heading out into areas subject to heavy precipitation, I leave the down jacket and/or vest at home and instead opt for Fleece and/or synthetic fiber garments. Long time favourites include the Montbell Thermawrap Jacket & Vest and the Patagonia R1 Hoody & R2 Fleece Vest.
Outer Layer: No garment is completely waterproof given extended exposure to the conditions I describe above. Working on the principle that damp is better than soaked and being comfortable rather than dry is the priority, I look for rain jackets with the following features:
1. A good DWR (durable water repellant) finish;
2. Relatively lightweight;
3. Quick drying;
4. Pit zips for ventilation;
5. Adjustable wrist cuffs and,
6. Fully adjustable hood with a stiff brim.
Jacket preferences?: The last few years I’ve mostly been using a Montbell Peak Shell Jacket. It has performed very well in a wide variety of environments ranging from Southwest Tasmania to the Colombian Andes. For three season hiking on well maintained trails and/or open terrain (i.e. no bushwhacking or overgrown terrain), I think the DriDucks Ultra-Lite 2 Jacket represents great value, particularly for folks on a tight budget.
Lower Body?: I usually take a combination of lightweight/quick drying “waterproof” pants (e.g. Montbell Versalite), along with a pair of lightweight long underwear to use at night (e.g. Patagonia Capilene 2, Montbell Merino Wool L.W. Tights).
4. Umbrella: Whether or not I take an umbrella into cold and wet conditions, depends on the character of the environment. For extended on-trail hikes in forests (i.e. relatively sheltered), I have found an umbrella to be worth its weight in gold by helping to keep my core temperature regular. For example, during my late fall/early winter hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2012, an umbrella helped to keep my torso warm and dry despite near constant precipitation and temps that rarely got above 5°c (41°F). On the other hand, if I’m venturing off-trail and/or into exposed, above-tree line areas prone to driving wind and rain, umbrellas are usually more trouble than they are worth.
5. Avoid sweating: Over-dressing and/or over-exerting can lead to excessive perspiration, which in turn can result in a lowering of body temperature. Constantly monitor yourself and remove or add layers accordingly. Make ‘not sweating’ a priority. This is one of the biggest reasons to bring along an umbrella; they can’t be beat when it comes to ventilation.
6. Pay Attention to the Extremities: Your head, hands and feet constitute the body’s initial warning system in cold conditions. For trips in cold and wet environments, I take a fleece beanie, thin wool gloves, MLD eVent Rain Mitts and merino liner socks. I also carry a third pair of thicker wool socks (always kept dry) to wear at night, or for use on my hands in lieu of mittens if temps drop below freezing.
7. Short breaks: The longer you stop the colder you become. When the weather turns nasty, keep breaks short and to a minimum. If for whatever reason you do need to take a longer break, put on an extra layer or two until you begin hiking again.
8. Food & Water: During the day eat high-energy snacks at regular intervals. Before going to bed, your evening meal should emphasise fats and proteins, which are processed slower by your digestive system. Keep a chocolate bar in your sleeping bag, in case you wake up cold and hungry in the middle of the night. (Note: you may want to disregard this last suggestion if you are hiking in bear country outside of winter).
In cold and wet conditions, hikers often forget to drink enough water. Big mistake. If you are dehydrated you are more susceptible to hypothermia
9. Pack Liner: Use a trash compactor bag to line the inside of your backpack. There’s not much point staying comfy during the day, if the rest of your gear (particularly your sleeping bag) is soaked when you arrive at camp.
10. Making and Breaking Camp: Putting up and taking down your shelter in pouring rain, rates right up there with a nagging case of bum chafe, in regards to things that hikers look forward to the most. Here are some pointers:
Location, location: Look for a spot that has good drainage; avoid depressions, gullies and if camping in established sites, be wary of setting up on highly compacted areas where water may pool during heavy precipitation. If rain is accompanied by high winds, try to find a place that is at least somewhat sheltered from elements. If camping close to watercourses, be sure to set up above the high water mark.
coastline (Feb, 2016).
Preparation: Have your shelter at the top of your pack ready for immediate deployment. If you are heading into areas known for inclement conditions, make sure you have plenty of practice erecting your tent or tarp quickly. You don’t want to be faffing about with poles and guylines when its raining cats and dogs.
Consider Waiting: Often deluges don’t last more than 20 or 30 minutes. If it’s really coming down and you suspect that the storm may pass quickly, consider biding your time under a nearby tree (Two Points to Note: 1. Trees aren’t always around when you need them, and; 2. This would be a good moment to break out the umbrella). Make the most of your wait by preparing stakes and poles. If its chilly, put on an extra layer, have a snack and do some pushups.
Before Entry: Fill up your water bottles, double check all the stakes are well set, pee if necessary and just before you are about to enter, quickly get out of your wet clothes and footwear; this last part can be done in your shelter’s vestibule if it has one.
Inside Your Shelter: Dry yourself, put on some warm clothes and make sure your wet items are separate from your dry stuff (once again, a vestibule is the ideal place to store wet items – see #11 below for exceptions). After you have settled in, try to avoid touching the walls in order to minimize condensation. Depending on design of the shelter and how hard it is raining, try to maximize ventilation by leaving the shelter’s entryway slightly open.
The Morning After: It’s still raining hard with no end in sight. Crap. If you have no choice but to continue, load all your dry items into your pack, including your tent’s inner if it has one. Then fold over the top of the bag liner, and place any wet items you won’t be wearing in plastic bags or waterproof stuff sacks on top of that. Once everything is packed, put on your shoes, waterproofs, take a deep breath, step outside and take down your shelter. Place your soaked tent or tarp in an outside pocket, or in a plastic bag at the top of your pack
During the Day: If you have a window of clear weather during the warmer hours, be sure to take the opportunity to dry out your gear. A combination of the sun’s rays plus a little breeze, will see most shelters fairly dry within 20 to 30 minutes. Do this for two reasons: 1. Dry stuff is lighter than wet stuff, and; 2. It’s a comforting feeling knowing that you have a dry shelter to get into at day’s end
11. Drying Clothes: There are certain lightweight, direct-against-the-skin items that it’s always nice to have dry at the beginning of the hiking day. As best I can, I try to dry these items overnight using the following techniques:
Gloves – I put directly against my head underneath my beanie.
Wet socks – I place down my long johns.
Hiking shirt – I will either wear over the top of a thin merino wool t-shirt or fleece, or alternatively (if it’s soaked), place it between my sleeping mat and the shelter floor.
Note: I usually avoid putting wet items directly against my sleeping bag/quilt, as the moisture can compromise the bag’s insulation.
12. Attitude: Once you have the gear and experience required to hike safely in cold and wet conditions, the key is perspective. Yes, the conditions are challenging, but moaning and complaining won’t improve them. Stay positive by viewing such times as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks; learning opportunities provided by Mother Nature that will ultimately help you to improve your backcountry skill set.
Crystal Lakes Road/Trail #44
This area has beautiful alpine scenery with views of the Tenmile Range. A 4WD road leads to Lower Crystal Lake and then a hiking trail continues for approximately 2 miles to Upper Crystal Lake. The road will take you through numerous alpine meadows which are fed by the tributaries of Crystal Creek. The road rises onto a shelf with Lower Crystal Lake nestled against the mountain walls. A cabin at the lake offers some shelter from the wind. Directly west of the cabin is Peak 10 at the Breckenridge Ski Area.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco and to Breckenridge. Continue 2.3 miles south on HWY 9 past Breckenridge and turn right onto Spruce Creek Rd (County Rd 800). Take left turns at the forks for approximately 1.8 miles until you come to the Spruce Creek Trailhead. If you do not have 4WD you can park at the trailhead and walk up the road OR continue driving and at the first junction turn right onto Crystal Creek Road (FDR 803). This is a 4WD road that will take you to Lower Crystal Lake. Motorized travel is prohibited beyond Lower Crystal Lake.
French Gulch Trail #2
Gold was discovered in French Gulch in 1860 by French Pete. This valley proved to be wildly rich in gold, silver, lead and zinc. You will see the remains of many mines in this area, as well as the rounded rock piles left by dredge boats. The trail initially follows the road and continues past a gate where eventually you will have wonderful views of Mt. Guyot and Bald Mountain. Once you have reached French Pass, you may continue downhill toward Michigan Creek located in the Pike/San Isabel National Forest in Park County.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco and travel to Breckenridge. Turn left at the 7-11 store at the intersection of French Gulch Road (County Road 450) and HWY 9. After approximately 0.4 miles the road forks, take the right fork into the subdivision. The road turns into County Road 2. Travel through the subdivision and then straight along the road. In approximately 4 miles there is a trailhead parking area on your right. Beyond this point there is no public parking so please park here.
McCullough Gulch Trail #43
The trail is located south of Breckenridge on the north side of Quandary Peak, elevation 14,265 feet. From the trailhead you will be hiking on an old mining road through the McCullough Gulch drainage. Although private property exists along this trail, hikers and mountain bikers are allowed access and are asked to stay on the trail. Eventually you turn onto a trail that leads you to a viewpoint of White Falls. You can continue up the trail to a beautiful alpine lake with a magnificent view of the entire McCullough Gulch drainage.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on Hwy 9 toward Breckenridge. Continue through Breckenridge and travel approximately 7.4 miles past the last traffic light in Breckenridge at Boreas Pass Road. You will pass through the town of Blue River on the way toward Blue Lakes Road (FDR 850) where you will turn right. Turn right onto McCullough Gulch Road (FDR 851) approximately 0.1 miles from HWY 9. At the fork in the road in approximately 1.7 miles, stay to the left. Follow McCullough Gulch Road to the gate where you will find the parking area. Please do not block the gate.
Spruce Creek Trail (Mohawk Lakes) #58
This trail offers a variety of scenery as it climbs through lodgepole, spruce and fir forests and eventually to Lower Mohawk Lake which is nestled against the mountain walls. Beyond this lake the trail continues a short distance to Upper Mohawk Lake where you can enjoy views of Mt. Helen and the rugged southern section of the Tenmile Range. Please stay on the established trail above treeline, the alpine tundra is very fragile.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco to the intersection of HWY 9 and Boreas Pass Road on the south side of Breckenridge. Proceed south on HWY 9 for approximately 2.1 miles and turn right onto Spruce Creek Road (Cty Rd 800). Proceed uphill on a good quality dirt road for approximately 0.1 mile and then bear left on main road through the intersection. After approximately 1.1 miles you will arrive at the parking area.
Wheeler National Recreation Trail #39
The Wheeler National Recreation Trail can either be started outside of Blue River just north of McCullough Gulch or near Copper Mountain. The trail climbs into the alpine and crosses over the Tenmile Range and has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. You can also enjoy the lower elevations as it passes through a mix of lodgepole and spruce/fir forests. Because this trail travels above timberline, you should begin your hike early in the morning because of the ever changing mountain weather. There is always a strong chance of afternoon thundershowers accompanied by lightning.
Access #1 (Wheeler Junction near Copper Mountain): From I-70 take Exit 195, Copper Mountain / Leadville, and travel south on HWY 91 toward Leadville. Immediately past I-70, turn left at the gas station and continue on the road to the parking area.
Access #2 (North of McCullough Gulch) From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on Hwy 9 toward Breckenridge. Continue through Breckenridge and travel approximately 7.4 miles past the last traffic light in Breckenridge at Boreas Pass Road. You will pass through the town of Blue River on the way toward Blue Lakes Road (FDR 850) where you will turn right. Turn right onto McCullough Gulch Road (FDR 851) approximately 0.1 miles from HWY 9. At the fork in the road in approximately 1.7 miles, stay right. You will come to the trail marked with a small sign.
Bakers Tank Trail #40
This trail winds through a dense forest as you climb up to Baker’s Tank. This is a popular trail for hikers and mountain bikers, so please be considerate of all trail users and yield right-of-way as needed. Before you reach the actual Baker’s Tank you will enjoy a nice viewpoint of the Tenmile Range including Quandary Peak and the Breckenridge Ski Area. Baker’s Tank is where the steam locomotives, designed especially for the tight curves and extreme grades found in mountain environments, took on water
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco toward Breckenridge. At the southern town limits of Breckenridge turn left onto Boreas Pass Road (County Road 10). Follow Boreas Pass Road approximately 3.5 miles to the Bakers Tank Trailhead parking lot.
Boreas Pass Road #10
At the start of the tour you immediately have spectacular views of the Blue River Valley and the majestic Tenmile Range. The road follows the old South Park and Pacific Railroad bed, climbing on a gradual 3% grade. The road climbs past Bakers Tank to the summit of Boreas Pass at the Continental Divide. The road then continues down the other side of Boreas Pass for another 10.4 miles to the town of Como in Park County. From 1872 to 1938 the road was used as a narrow-gauge railroad and gained fame as the nation’s highest narrow-gauge railroad, running from Como to Breckenridge. This is a great road to view Fall colors.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco / Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco toward Breckenridge. At the southern town limits of Breckenridge turn left on Boreas Pass Road (County Road 10). Follow Boreas Pass Road approximately 3.5 miles to the Bakers Tank trailhead and parking lot on your left. The Bakers Tank Trailhead is the parking area for non-motorized road users.
Burro Trail #80
There are two trailheads for the Burro Trail, one starting at the base of the Peak 9 ski area at Breckenridge near Beaver Run Resort and the other starting at the Spruce Creek Trailhead north of Breckenridge in the town of Blue River. The trail winds through dense forest and has some viewpoints along the way.
Access 1: From Spruce Creek: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco and to Breckenridge. Continue south on HWY 9 past Breckenridge for 2.3 miles and turn right onto Spruce Creek Rd (Country Rd 800). Take left turns at the forks for approximately 1 mile to the Spruce Creek Trailhead parking lot. Do not parallel park on the County Road or on the private drives. To access the Burro Trail continue along Spruce Creek Rd for a short distance and turn right onto Crystal Creek Rd. Within 1/4 mile the Burro Trail intersects the road.
Access 2: From Breckenridge, Peak 9: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco / Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco and travel to Breckenridge. The lower access is via the Beaver Run parking area at the Peak 9 base of Breckenridge Ski Area. You can park either in the limited Beaver Run Peak 9 paid parking lot or park down in town and take the free shuttle bus to the base area. Once at the Beaver Run parking area you will need to go 100 yards across the Lehman ski run to the Burro Trail trailhead on the south side of the run.
Indiana Creek Road #593
Indiana Creek Road leads you up the drainage and eventually connect to Boreas Pass Road (County Road 10), which can then take you back toward Breckenridge or over Boreas Pass to Como in Park County. You can also travel to the old mining town of Dyersville and the Warriors Mark Mine. Please be careful around Dyersville and the Warriors Mark Mine. Another popular route involves making a loop from Indiana Creek Road to Pennsylvania Creek Road
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 toward Breckenridge. Continue through Breckenridge and travel approximately 1.0 mile past the last traffic light in Breckenridge at Boreas Pass Road. Turn left onto Wagon Road from HWY 9 (if you travel past the Goose Pasture Tarn [lake] you have gone too far). Travel on Wagon Road and turn left onto Indiana Creek Road (FDR 593). When you come to the fork in the road bear to the left and continue on Indiana Creek Road. When the paved road ends, this will be the beginning of the OHV portion of Indiana Creek Road.
Gold Hill Trail #79
The trail climbs over Gold Hill where you can enjoy views of the Upper Blue River Valley eastward and the rugged Tenmile Range to the west. The trail passes through a series of clear cuts that were cut in 1988 along with a more recent clearing at the beginning of the trail in 2008. The remaining thick lodgepole pine in the area average 70 to 100 years in age. These trees, because of their density and age, are especially susceptible to disease and fire. Small clear-cut areas are designed to minimize the danger to the overall forest by creating age differences and open glades. We encourage people to watch this area as a new healthy ecosystem reclaims the area where the clear cut areas are.
Directions:From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco toward Breckenridge. After approximately 6.1 miles, turn right at CR 950. Immediately to your right is the trailhead parking area for the Gold Hill Trail. The trail begins across the road from the parking area.
Pennsylvania Creek Road #611
Pennsylvania Creek Road climbs up the valley and eventually after approximately 2.5 miles you can turn left and drop down to Indiana Creek Rd (FDR 593). At this point you can continue to Boreas Pass Rd (FDR10) or visit the old mining town of Dyersville and Warriors Mark Mine. Another popular route involves making a loop from Pennsylvania Creek Road to Indiana Creek Road.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 toward Breckenridge. Travel through Breckenridge. Approximately 3.4 miles past Boreas Pass Road traffic light turn left at Blue River Road and continue straight to where the road forks at Royal Drive and Regal Circle. Bear to the right on Royal Drive and follow the road to Coronet Drive, which will be on the right. Travel on Coronet Drive until this road reaches a parking area and then continues onto National Forest.
Quandary Peak Trail #47
Quandary Peak is widely regarded as one of the easier Fourteener’s to summit, but in reality none of the Fourteener’s are easy hikes due to the high elevation and variable weather conditions. Hikers that make it to the summit are rewarded with spectacular views. From the summit of Quandary Peak to the north you can view the Tenmile and Gore Range. Because this trail travels above timberline, you should begin your hike early in the morning because of the ever changing mountain weather. There is always a strong chance of afternoon thundershowers accompanied by LIGHTNING.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on Hwy 9 approximately 10 miles to the town of Breckenridge. Continue through Breckenridge on Hwy 9 (Main Street). You will pass the town of Blue River, travel 4 miles and then turn right onto Blue Lakes Road (FDR 850). Turn right onto McCullough Gulch Road (FDR 851) approximately 0.1 miles from HWY 9. The trailhead parking will be on your right and the trail starts on the left side of the road.
Corral Creek Trail #41
The Corral Creek Trail starts at Vail Pass and takes you through a valley and then starts to climb into the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. This is a great trail to access alpine terrain quickly and enjoy the surrounding mountain views.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 190 at Vail Pass. The trail begins on the east side of the highway.
Gore Range Trail #60
The Gore Range Trail runs the north-south length of the Dillon Ranger District portion of the Eagles Nest Wilderness. The trail begins at the Copper Mountain exit along Interstate 70 and finishes in the Spring Creek area north of Green Mountain Reservoir. The trail climbs over Uneva and Eccles Passes before dropping below tree-line. It then climbs in and out of numerous drainages as it travels north. The Gore Range Trail is named after Sir St. George Gore, an Irish nobleman, who led a hunting expedition across this mountain range in 1853. Jim Bridger, aka “King of the Mountain Men,” served as guide. They crossed what is now the Gore Range and hunted extensively in the Vail area.
Directions: Southern TrailheadFrom westbound I-70 take Exit 196, Scenic Overlook, and park in the spaces provided. From eastbound I-70 travel to Exit 198, Officers Gulch, and turn left at the stop sign. Travel underneath I-70 and take the westbound on-ramp for I-70. Travel on I-70 westbound and take Exit 196, Scenic Overlook, and park in the spaces provided. Northern TrailheadFrom I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 27 miles into Grand County. Turn left onto Spring Creek Road, Grand County Road 10. Follow Spring Creek Road (CR 10) for 6.8 miles and continue straight on FDR 23 after you cross a cattle guard where there is a BLM bulletin board. In a few miles you will pass the National Forest Boundary where there is a kiosk. At the next junction turn left onto FDR #1832. Follow this road until it ends at the Gore Range Trailhead.
Meadow Creek Trail #33
This trail enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness and eventually takes you up into the high alpine terrain of Eccles Pass. The beginning of the trail climbs steeply as it passes through aspen stands. Great views of Dillon Reservoir and the Upper Blue Valley can be seen from occasional clearings along the Meadow Creek Trail. As you approach timberline, the trail opens up in a large meadow providing beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel to the traffic circle on the north side of I -70. Go around the traffic circle to the gravel road that parallels Interstate 70. Follow this frontage road to the end where you will find the parking area and trailhead.
Miners Creek Trail #38
This trail starts near the town of Frisco and eventually takes you up and over the Tenmile Range and junctions with the Wheeler National Recreation Trail which ends at Copper Mountain. This is a great one way trail if you can do a vehicle shuttle or take the free Summit Stage Bus. The alpine scenery is amazing and you can enjoy 360 degree views once on top of the Tenmile Range.
Directions:From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 toward Breckenridge, CO. Turn right on County Road 2004 which is the entrance to the County Commons. Follow this road for approximately 100 yards and turn right, then turn immediately left. Continue on this road for another 0.3 miles to the parking area at the gate. This is the parking for winter access. During the summer, you can continue up the road. Look out for cyclists when crossing the bike path. The road eventually turns into a 4WD road, so if you don’t have 4WD you can park at the gate or further up the road on National Forest land. The trail begins at the end of the 4WD road.
North Tenmile Trail #37
This is a great trail that is easily accessible from the town of Frisco. The beginning of the trail climbs between Chief Mountain and Wichita Mountain as it continues up the Tenmile drainage. You will travel near the creek and open meadows before entering the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. There are signs of previous beaver activity along sections of the trail. This is a great hike since you can just go a short distance and turn around or hike up to the junction with the Gore Range Trail which provides access to other areas.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 201, Frisco Main Street. Turn away from Frisco (west) and park in the area just north of the interstate interchange.
Wheeler Lakes (Gore Range Trail #60 )
This trail enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness and provides great views of Copper Mountain Ski Area to the south and the Tenmile Range to the southeast. The trail climbs steadily up through aspen and lodgepole pine forests before reaching the two Wheeler Lakes. If you want a longer hike, then you can continue on the Gore Range Trail up to Lost Lake or to the top of Uneva Pass.
Directions: From westbound I-70 take Exit 196, Scenic Overlook, and park in the spaces provided. From eastbound I-70 travel to Exit 198, Officers Gulch, and turn left at the stop sign. Travel underneath I-70 and take the westbound on-ramp for I-70. Travel on I-70 westbound and take Exit 196, Scenic Overlook, and park in the spaces provided.
Wilder Gulch Trail #75
This is a pleasant 3½ mile hike from the parking lot at Vail Pass to the top of Ptarmigan Pass. There are potential opportunities for viewing a variety of wildlife and wildflowers. The trail ascends gently for about while it passes in and out of coniferous forests and meadows. At the end of the Wilder Gulch trail you will come to a 4WD road that you can follow up to Ptarmigan Pass. Ptarmigan Pass offers fantastic views of the northern Sawatch Range and the west side of the Gore Range.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 190, Vail Pass Rest Area, and go to the rest area on the west side of I-70. Park in the designated area. From the parking area travel south, paralleling the interstate until you reach the first major drainage, this is Wilder Gulch.
Dickey Day Use Area
This parking area is a great access point to the shores of Lake Dillon near the town of Frisco. There is a trail that starts from here that parallels the shore of Lake Dillon with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. This trailhead also provides access to the network of trails on the Frisco Peninsula.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through the town of Frisco. After passing by the Frisco Peninsula the road curves along the shoreline of Lake Dillon. Just before this curve turn left onto a dirt road and follow a short distance to the parking area.
Mayflower Gulch Road/Trail #1178
The road initially climbs through a spruce/fir forest before coming out into open alpine terrain at some old mining cabins. You have a spectacular view of the upper part of Mayflower Gulch.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 195, Copper Mountain / Leadville, and travel south on HWY 91 toward Leadville. Travel south 5.3 miles. The Mayflower Gulch trailhead and parking area will be on the left side.
Miner's Creek Road #1000
The Miners Creek Road is near the town of Frisco and is an out and back route. There are dispersed camping oppportunities along the road. At the end of Miners Creek Road travelers are rewarded with a majestic view of the northern portion of the Tenmile Range. There is no motorized access beyond this point but you can continue on the Miner’s Creek Trail by hiking, biking or horseback.
Directions:From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 towards Breckenridge. From the Frisco Main Street and Summit Boulevard (HWY 9) traffic light continue for .5 miles to the next traffic light at the County Commons entrance (CR 1004). Turn right at the traffic light and follow this road for approximately 200 yards and turn right, then an immediate left turn and continue up the gravel road to the paved bike path. USE EXTREME CAUTION entering the road/bike path up the hill where it will intersect with the paved Frisco/Breckenridge bike path. Cross the paved bike path and continue up the gravel road.
Mount Royal/Masontown Trail #1
This trail climbs through a lodgepole pine forest for approximately 1 mile to the old mining town of Masontown. Spectacular views of Dillon Reservoir, the Tenmile Range and the Continental Divide can be seen from Masontown. At this point an option is to continue on the steep trail up to the summit of Mount Royal. Mining ruins at Masontown as well as some near the summit provide other opportunitiesfor explorers. Please respect all historic property and do not remove anything so that future visitors can also enjoy.
Directions:From I-70 take Exit 201, Frisco Main Street, and travel east toward the town of Frisco. Turn right and park in the large paved parking lot approximately 100 yards east of I-70. Walk over the footbridge and turn left on the paved bike path. Follow the bike path for approximately 0.5 miles and turn right at the Mt. Royal Trail sign
Old Dillon Reservoir Trail #87
This is a short, easy trail that has spectacular views of the mountains of the Tenmile Range and the Continental Divide. The Old Dillon Reservoir was built in the 1930’s to supply water to the original town of Dillon, which is now covered by the new Dillon Reservoir. Water is supplied to the old reservoir via a diversion ditch from Salt Lick Creek, north of I-70. The Old Dillon Reservoir offers great fishing during the summer.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 to the first traffic light at the Dillon Dam Road and turn left. Travel east on the Dillon Dam Road for approximately 1.4 miles. On the left side of the road, just past the entrance to the Heaton Bay Campground, you will see the trailhead sign.
Peaks Trail #45
This is a one way multi-use trail that starts from either the town of Frisco or Breckenridge, CO. The trail climbs in and out of numerous drainages for its entire length staying mostly in the lodgepole pine forest along with some aspen, spruce and fir forests. Most of the lodgepole pine trees are of the same age and provide ground cover and/or forage for wildlife in the area. You will cross some small clearings which were harvested in 1988. These trees were cut to increase the wildlife habitat and to improve the health of the forest by creating age and species diversity, thereby reducing the fire danger. Since the grade from Breckenridge toward Frisco is generally downhill, many people travel this direction and ride the free Summit Stage Bus back to Breckenridge.
Access #1 (Breckenridge): From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco / Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 to Breckenridge for 10 miles. Turn right on Ski Hill Road at the traffic light in the middle of Breckenridge. Go to the top of Ski Hill Road, towards the Breckenridge Ski Area Peak 8. Just past the Peak 8 base area turn right and go past Grand Timber Lodge. The trailhead will be on your left.
Access #2 (Frisco): From I-70 take Exit 201, Frisco Main Street, turn east toward Frisco. Travel approximately 0.6 miles to 2nd Avenue and turn right. Follow 2nd Avenue to the end of the street and park in the spaces provided. Cross over the paved bike path to the trailhead.
Lenawee Trail #34
This trail climbs steadily up to tree line through lodgepole pine, spruce and fir forests. After reaching the alpine, the trail becomes less evident and the hiker must pay close attention to the rock cairns marking the trail. The Jumbo Mine may be viewed from the trail, as well as spectacular views of Dillon Reservoir to the west and the mountains of the Continental Divide to the east and south. The Peru Creek drainage is rich in mining history with numerous underground mine shafts, so be careful where you walk.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel east on HWY 6 toward Keystone. Just past Keystone, turn right onto Montezuma Road (County Road 5). Follow Montezuma Road for approximately 4.6 miles and then turn left onto Peru Creek Road (FDR 260). Follow Peru Creek Road for approximately 2.0 miles to the Lenawee Trailhead which will be on the left side of the road. Please park along the side of Peru Creek Road.
Buffalo Cabin/Buffalo Mountain Trail #31
Along this trail you have an option of a shorter hike to some log cabin ruins or continuing up the trail to the top of Buffalo Mountain at 12,274 ft. The trail begins by winding through a lodgepole pine forest and eventually leads you by the remains of two historic log cabins with only the foundations remaining. Please leave all artifacts at the cabin ruins for others to enjoy. The trail climbs steeply into the alpine where you can occasionally see mountain goats. Even though the goats may seem used to human presence, for your safety please do not approach the animals or feed them. Once on top of Buffalo Mountain you will have spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.
***NOT RECOMMENDED FOR HIKING WITH DOGS. Trail climbs steeply through rock talus field where dogs can injure their pads.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 and turn left at the first traffic light, Rainbow Drive/Wildernest Road. Travel 3.6 miles on Wildernest Road (turns into Ryan Gulch Road). You will pass many condos and at the top of the road there will be a trailhead parking area on the left. There are two trailheads at this parking area, be sure to start at the Buffalo Cabin Trailhead.
Lily Pad Lake Trail #50
This trail is very accessible from town and is a popular trail into the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Initially, the trail travels south through thick stands of lodgepole pine and aspen. Along the way you will cross some small streams and pass by several beaver ponds. These beaver ponds attracted fur trappers during 1810-1840, the boom years of the fur trade. The lake is a great place to relax and enjoy your lunch. Moose have been seen in this area in the past. It is a privilege to be able to see one of these animals in the wild, please keep your distance and do not approach them.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 to the first traffic light at the intersection of Rainbow Drive / Wildernest Road. Turn left onto Wildernest Road (this road turns into Ryan Gulch Road). Travel for 3.6 miles to the top of Ryan Gulch Road. Toward the end of the road there will be a parking area on the left. There are two trailheads that leave from this parking lot, be sure to start at Lily Pad Lake Trailhead.
Lower Boulder Lake Trail #59
This is a moderate hike to a lake nestled in the trees in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. The trail follows rolling terrain through the trees until eventually dropping down into the Boulder Creek drainage. At the lake you can enjoy views up the valley of the rugged Gore Range Mountains.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9. Travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 7.7 miles. On your left will be Rock Creek Road (FDR 1350) across from the Blue River Campground. Follow the gravel road for approximately 1.23 miles and turn left at the road marked “Rock Creek”. If you come to a gate on the road you have traveled too far. Follow this road approximately 1.74 until it ends at the trailhead parking lot.
Lower/Upper Slate Lakes Trail #65
Both Lower and Upper Slate Lakes are set in the spectacular scenery of the Gore Range in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. In the lower part of Slate Creek drainage you can enjoy open sagebrush meadows, Aspen trees groves and the creek. The trail then climbs steadily up to both lakes. Because of the distance of these lakes from the trailhead, most people access this area by backpacking so they can enjoy multiple days in the area. Access for the day is possible but will be a full day.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne / Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 7.7 miles. On your left will be Rock Creek Road (FDR 1350) across from the Blue River Campground. Follow the dirt road for approximately 1.2 miles and turn left at the road marked “Rock Creek”. Follow this road approximately 1.7 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead which is at the end of the road.
Mesa Cortina Trail/South Willow Falls Trails #32
This trail enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness where it winds through aspen groves and crosses open meadows where you have great views of the Williams Fork Range, Dillon Reservoir and the entire Blue River Valley. The meadows offer great opportunities for viewing wildflowers during mid-July. Eventually the trail climbs up a gorge between Buffalo Mountain and Red Peak. South Willow Falls is a cascade that tumbles over the rocks of South Willow Creek.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 to the first traffic light at the intersection of Rainbow Drive / Wildernest Road. Turn left onto Wildernest Road / Ryan Gulch Rd. After crossing the Blue River, turn right onto Adams Ave. and then immediately turn left onto Royal Buffalo Drive. After 0.8 miles, turn right onto Lakeview Drive and then left onto Aspen Drive. Continue 0.2 miles and there will be a pull thru parking lot on the right-hand side of the road.
North Rock Creek Trail #46
The Rock Creek Trail leads you into the Eagles Nest Wilderness where you can enjoy a beautiful meadow with views of the Gore Range. Approximately 1.5 miles past the Gore Range Trail intersection the Alfred M. Bailey Bird Nesting Area may be seen on the left side of the trail. Designated as a high diversity bird area by the Denver Field Ornithologists, the bird nesting area features a variety of habitats used by diverse species. In addition to being a beautiful site located in the Eagles Nest Wilderness area, Bailey is home to Wilson's Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, and Fox Sparrow. Continuing past this area, the trail climbs up to the historic Boss Mine.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 7.7 miles. Turn left onto Rock Creek Road (FDR 1350) across from the Blue River Campground. Follow the gravel road for approximately 1.2 miles and turn left at the road marked “Rock Creek”. The winter trailhead parking lot is immediately on your left. For summer access, you can continue up the 4WD road for approximately 1.7 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead and parking lot.
Ptarmigan Peak Trail #35
The Ptarmigan Peak Trail is an excellent trail to experience a panoramic view of all the mountain ranges in the Dillon Ranger District - the Continental Divide, Gore Range, Tenmile Range and Williams Fork Range. At tree line this trail enters the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area where you can either hike up to Ptarmigan Peak or Ptarmigan Pass.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 0.2 miles to the intersection of Wildernest Drive/Rainbow Drive, (Wendy’s is on the corner). Turn right onto Rainbow Drive and then right onto Tanglewood Lane. Follow Tanglewood Lane to Ptarmigan Trail Rd and turn right. Follow this road for approximately 0.8 miles to the trailhead parking, which is on the right side of the road. The trail starts across the road from the parking area. There are arrows to guide you to the trailhead from the parking area through the private homes.
Upper Willow Lakes/Salmon Lake Trail #36
Willow and Salmon Lakes are nestled in gorgeous alpine scenery in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. These lakes are surrounded by beautiful alpine meadows and have the rugged Gore Range as a backdrop. Many people enjoy the abundant wildflowers in this area during the peak season.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne / Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 7.3 miles. On your left will be Rock Creek Road (FDR 1350) across from the Blue River campground. Turn left and follow the gravel road for 1.5 miles and turn left at the road marked “Rock Creek”. Follow this dirt road for approximately 1.7 miles to North Rock Creek Trailhead parking area at the end of the road.
Ute Pass/Peak Trail #24
The Ute Peak Trail offers some of the best views of the Gore Range available. Initially the trail climbs up to Ute Pea and then stays on the ridge of the Williams Fork Range all the way to Ptarmigan Peak. There are sections where the trail becomes faint but the ridge line is easy to follow. If you want to take an all day hike and end up in Silverthorne, you can do a car shuttle. Since most of this trail travels above treeline, be aware of potential lightning danger during afternoon storms.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 13 miles to the intersection with Ute Pass Road (CR 15). Follow Ute Pass Road for approximately 5.2 miles to the top of the pass where there is a large parking area on the right side of the road. The trail starts to the south across an open grassy field.
Acorn Creek Trail #71
This trail offers the hiker solitude as well as an excellent opportunity to view wildlife. You will hike through beautiful Aspen groves, sagebrush meadows, and forests of spruce and fir trees before reaching the ridge line of the Williams Fork Range. Approximately 1.7 miles from the trailhead you will come to the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness boundary. You will enjoy spectacular views of the rugged Gore Range throughout your day. This is also a wonderful trail to view the Aspen trees change color in the fall and is one of the first trails to melt out in the spring and be clear of snow.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205 Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 10.6 miles. After you cross the Blue River you will immediately turn right onto CR 2400 (Ute Park Rd). At the first junction, continue left following the trailhead sign. Then turn right onto FDR 2402 (Rodeo Dr) and travel approximately 0.6 miles to the trailhead/parking lot.
Straight Creek Trail #48
The trail parallels I-70 the entire way up to Eisenhower Tunnel and is an old double-track road. It will cross Straight Creek a few times as you climb gradually up the valley through a lodge pole pine forest. Straight Creek runs down from the Continental Divide at the Eisenhower Tunnel along I-70 and into the Blue River in Silverthorne. It is the main water supply for the town of Dillon.
Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel south on HWY 6 toward Dillon. In approximately 1.2 miles turn left at the traffic intersection of Hwy 6 and Evergreen Raod. Then make an immediate right onto County Road 51 and follow this for approx. 1.7 miles until it ends at a gate and the trailhead parking area.
The 10 Essentials of Hiking
Ten Things You Should Bring on Every Hike
1. Appropriate footwear. For a short day hike that doesn’t involve a heavy pack or technical terrain, trail shoes are great. For longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or more technical terrain, hiking boots offer more support.
2. Map and compass/GPS. A map and compass not only tell you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident. While GPS units are very useful, always carry a map and compass as a backup.
3. Extra water and a way to purify it. Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply can’t perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
4. Extra food. Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: getting lost, enjoying time by a stream, an injury, or difficult terrain. Extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
5. Rain gear and extra clothing. Because the weatherman is not always right. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
6. Safety items: fire, light, and a whistle. The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent hypothermia. Fires are also a great way to signal for help if you get lost. If lost, you’ll also want the whistle as it is more effective than using your voice to call for help (use 3 short bursts). And just in case you’re out later than planned, a flashlight/headlamp is a must-have item to see your map and where you’re walking.
7. First aid kit. Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter. Double your effectiveness with knowledge: take a first-aid class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid class.
8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear.
9. Sun screen and sun glasses. Especially above treeline when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you’ll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
10. Daypack/backpack. You’ll want something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in. Keep the other Essentials in the pack and you’ll always be ready to hit the trail safely.
BONUS: Trash Bag. This 11th piece of gear is essential to making sure that the trails you love stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.