Black Powder Pass is a 12,159' saddle between two impressive alpine peaks: 13,082' Boreas Mountain and 13,684' Bald Mountain. It is accessed from the top of Boreas Pass Road, an 11,481' dirt road that is passable to passenger cars once the snow has melted (usually by mid-June). The trail begins by following Boreas Ditch #2, a peaceful creek that is lovelier than its gruff name implies. Continue on through a smattering of meadows and forests until reaching treeline, where flowers and alpine grasses abound. Mountain views are spectacular and those who want to add more challenge to their day can opt to ascend either of the bracketing peaks—neither have formal trails but both are straightforward walk-ups.
What Makes It Great
Even before stepping out of your vehicle, the views from top of Boreas Pass are stunning. Besides the expansive alpine scenery, the weathered but welcoming cabin known as Section House adds historical decoration to the open meadows. This maintained building, once an old railroad bunkhouse, now serves as a public hut that can be rented out. It's most often visited in the winter when skiers and snowshoers must ascend the snowed-over road. Behind Section House is the start of the informal but well-worn trails headed to Black Powder Pass. The start of the hike along the old mining ditch is actually quite pleasant, as the waters run clear and many a dog has taken a dip in the cool creek.
The trails branch off in unmarked forks as you ascend from the ditch, but never fear—as long as you trend uphill, you'll find your way to Black Powder Pass. Paths are well-worn as they climb and rejoin above treeline just after a mile of hiking. Alpine flowers and spacious views are in surplus the rest of the way to the top of the pass itself. Bald Mountain's thick shoulder (actually a false summit) towers to your left and the broad fin of Boreas Mountain is on the right. Views east of the saddle look down to the Old French Pass Toll Road and 13,370' Mount Guyot beyond.
Who is Going to Love It
Black Powder Pass is a great place for a casual hike. Families, photographers, and those looking for a lot of visual rewards for modest effort will appreciate the transformation of the mountainous landscape as the trail ascends through treeline. Ambitious hikers can user Black Powder Pass as their gateway to Bald and Boreas Mountains' summits—tagging both in a single outing is possible for fit hikers. But for those who want a scenic outing with a moderate hike, the walk up to Black Powder Pass will be more than enough to satisfy your mountain cravings.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Driving south on Rt. 9 you turn left onto Boreas Pass Road just as you leave the town of Breckenridge. Continue on this road (eventually it becomes a dirt but is passable by cars) for 9.6 miles to the old railroad section house that is located at the summit. The trail begins to the northeast of the building (left) and follows a stream drainage ditch to the saddle between Boreas Mountain and Bald Mountain.
Thanks to Summit County Explorer for providing original content.