A Hiking Weekend in Breckenridge
So the weather wasn’t terribly conducive to long, high altitude hikes in Breckenridge unless post holing and getting soaked by rainstorms sound fun.
My first hike of the weekend was on Friday to Wheeler Lake. The forecast originally called for rain in the afternoon and then changed to only cloudy. This was exciting though I later found out, inaccurate news.
The Wheeler Lake Trailhead, not to be confused with Wheeler Trail can be reached from County Road 4 which intersects with Highway 9 about a mile south of Hoosier Pass. I passed the Montgomery Reservoir which covers the old mining Town of Montgomery and parked at the small upper lot.
The hike begins at 10,900 feet on an EXTREME four-wheel drive jeep road. I looked in awe at the rocks and wondered how anyone could drive it. Fortunately for me, no one was attempting it and I had the road to myself.
The beginning of trail led me beneath the Magnolia Mill. I always find historical buildings interesting, so after taking some time to inspect its perimeter and the nearby waterfall, I carried on up the trail. Soon I reached an old cement mixer used in the mining days.
After climbing over the initial slabs of rock, I enjoyed a gentle incline on a ridiculously wet and muddy road. Most of the time, I was able to negotiate around the temporary “ponds” by detouring through the road-side willows, however, a mis-step into the mud sucked my shoe right off!
I tried keeping my feet dry, but it turned out to be an exercise in futility as soon I reached snowpack. Basically, a creek flowed beneath the snow. At the beginning, the snowpack held and I was able to walk along the frozen surface with the help of micro-spikes. Unfortunately, the farther I proceeded, the more I post-holed. In the meantime, the blue sky with billowing white clouds turned pitch black.
Without any wind and the clouds not really moving, I continued a little further, but my progress was slow and my feet were freezing. With more snow across the meadow, the path became less discernible. With all the elements mounting against me, I decided to throw in the towel and turn around.
I sat to change my socks and stick my feet into some plastic bags before slipping them back into my soaking wet shoes which ended up taking two days to dry and started back down the mountain. No sooner did I turn around that the wind picked up and thunder snow fell upon me! I suppose that was better than rain.
Anyway, I was probably only a quarter-mile away from the lake after hiking 3 miles up the trail, but I figured I better be safe than sorry. I found out the hike is very nice in the summer for wildflowers, so I will have to try again in a few months. Regardless, it was good to get six miles under my belt and enjoy the lovely scenery.
My second hike of the weekend was Saturday afternoon in between intermittent rain storms at Cucumber Gulch. The hike begins at the Breckenridge Nordic Center. Being mud season, the area wasn’t quite ready for hikers and many of the trails were closed. As such, much of this hike to me was a bust. I weaved around some ski homes and saw the beaver ponds from afar, but didn’t spot any moose or wildlife that are known to hang out in the area. I’m not sure I walked much more than a mile.
Not far away from the Nordic Center, and also close to town, however, is Iowa Hill, so I headed here for another mile hike. This trail leads hikers past many relics of the Iowa Hill Hydraulic Placer Mine. Interpretive signs explain the techniques used at this historical mine. The trail is good for anyone who just wants to get outside for an hour and is intrigued by mining equipment. I finished the walk that climbs about 300 feet just before the next rainstorm. It was a relaxed way to stretch my legs.
My final hike of the weekend was at Dillon Peninsula. The peninsula includes a several trails that can be connected for variety of hiking distances. I was aiming for a 5.3 mile loop, but ended up turning too soon on a trail that wasn’t marked on the map I had with me, so my hike was shortened my two miles. Oh well, I still got outside and enjoyed a lovely, sunny day that would later be mired by much needed rain.
The peninsula juts out into the Dillon Reservoir along the Snake River Inlet. I began the hike off of Highway 6 across from Cemetery Road. Here I followed the paved path for a quarter mile to the dirt road that passes by the reservoir’s shore. Soon I turned left off the road and onto Meadow Loop Trail which took me a meadow of wildflowers and bird houses.
Soon I reached a trail called “cut-through” and turned right where I climbed up to the top of the ridge for lovely views of the Snake River and surrounding mountains. This is where I made my mistake as I should have kept going a little farther on Meadow Loop to Ridge Trail. Either way, I ended up in the same spot enjoying a lovely Colorado spring day. While I could have back-tracked slightly and made a larger loop, I decided to head back down to the parking lot via Meadow Loop Trail and drive back to Denver for a relaxing afternoon.
While I would have liked to log a few more miles over the weekend than I did, I was just excited to get the hiking season going! Stay tuned for more hikes this summer. ETB
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