14,265' Quandary Peak is the monarch of the Tenmile Range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains that runs from the town of Frisco to Hoosier Pass. Despite its lofty elevation, this summit is obtainable for most active hikers. The trail follows a long, gradual ramp up the east ridge and is in excellent shape, thanks to volunteers who maintain it. Many Colorado locals claim Quandary as their first 14,000 foot peak, citing the fine trail and non-technical ascent. The challenge for out-of-towners is the the high altitude—if visiting the Breckenridge, give yourself at least three days (more is better if you can) before undertaking this adventure. And since afternoon summer storms hit with regularity after noon, plan to be starting your hike up no later than 6:30 am. If this is your first adventure above 14,000 feet, read How to Climb Your First 14er for some great tips.
What Makes It Great
Quandary Peak breeches timberline about a mile from the parking area and the ascent mileage is only 3.3 miles, but the altitude is going to slow most hikers down. Pace yourself and relax—the views of the snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, and far-away summits will be a fine consolation as you catch your breath. The majority of this hike is above treeline, so wide-open views will accompany you for most of the adventure. Often, curious mountain goats will scope out hikers. Though they are generally calm critters, don't go out of your way to interact with them.
As you near the top, the rocky summit of Quandary will reveal new views that look out over the Tenmile Range, including high 13ers Fletcher Mountain and Drift Peak to the west. There are wind shelters on the summit, though they are often occupied by other hikers on busy summer weekends. Enjoy the scenery but don't linger too long on the summit as storms are always brewing in the Colorado sky. Plan to be off the top no later than 11:30 am to give yourself the best margin of safety. Remember to eat and drink on the descent, as hydration is one of the key elements to warding off the effects of the oxygen-thin air.
Who is Going to Love It
You need to be in decent shape to take on Quandary. If you just got off the plane from Boston, this is not the hike to begin with as altitude sickness could lead to shortness of breath, dizziness, or headaches. Expect this hike to be an all day affair. If you want the exhilaration that comes with a sense of accomplishment after a good hard ascent, Quandary will do that for you. But you will be rewarded. At the rocky summit you will truly feel as though you're on top of the world.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Drive south on highway 9 about 7.5 miles from the last traffic light in Breckenridge to Blue Lakes Road on your right, turn right. The trailhead is at the junction of Highway 9 and CR 850 and will be immediately on your right after turning onto CR 850/Blue Lakes Road. You can park in the large parking area here. Travel along a well-defined trail from the parking lot to McCullough Gulch Road. Turn right on McCullough Gulch Road (CR 851) and hike approximately 300 yards and look for the Quandary Peak Trail on your left.
Thanks to Summit County Explorer for providing original content.