The hills around Breckenridge are well-known for their mining history. Once scoured for gold deposits, now people have come to appreciate the land for other reasons—hiking and mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. The town itself sits at an elevation of 9,600 feet, at the base of the Tenmile Mountain Range, which means just about every trails offers views that seem to never end. The area is also filled with meadows and alpine lakes, like this hike through Monte Cristo Gulch.
What Makes It Great
There are many reasons why this trail is consistently named one of the best in Breckenridge. First, the distance isn’t terribly challenging, but the elevation will definitely get your heart rate up. It’s a great early season tune-up to get ready for higher elevation hikes, or a short trip through some of Breckenridge’s most beautiful scenery. While it wouldn’t be the easiest family hike, it’s definitely doable and would be quite an adventure for kids. Just make sure you go early to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms that are common in the summer.
Walking through the gulch, you’ll see the Blue Lake, small streams running down to the lake, blooming wildflowers, and maybe even wildlife. Mountain goats are common here, as well as pikas, marmots, and ptarmigans. Like many of the trails in Breckenridge, remnants of the area’s mining history can also be found along the way, so keep an eye out for crumbling stone structures.
If you’re up for more of a challenge, the Blue Lakes trailhead is also the route to summit the east ridge of Quandary Peak, one of Colorado’s “14ers” at 14,265 feet. It will take a little longer into the summer for the snow to melt here, and even though it’s only 6.75 miles round trip, this climb should not be taken lightly.
Who is Going to Love It
Even though this is a shorter trail, it’s great for getting yourself acclimated to hiking at higher elevations. Because it’s less than three miles, you can take your time without worrying about getting caught too far out.
The entire hike is above treeline and there are tons of little critters running around, so you can turn the kids loose without worrying that they are going to get lost. Keep them on the trail so as to not destroy the fragile vegetation, but they can have a little more freedom to run up ahead.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Breckenridge, take Highway 9 south for about eight miles until you get to Blue Lakes Road, #850. Turn right onto Blue Lakes Road and continue straight at the fork. The road will dead end at a dam, where you will find a large parking lot and the Blue Lakes trailhead.