Hiking at Hoosier Pass, Colorado


Summit County has an endless supply of hiking opportunities.  And if you head to the county’s southern end, you’ll find a good place to spend an hour or two, on a walk that provides some great mountain views, with a fairly low level of difficulty.  From I-70 and Frisco, drive south on Colorado Highway 9, pass through Breckenridge, and climb the hill to Hoosier Pass.

This part of the Continental Divide is located at 11,542 feet, which is nice place to start a hike, because your car’s engine did all of the work getting you to this altitude.  Even if you’re not interested in hiking, you’ll still enjoy some nice views, and the chance to take a photo next to the Continental Divide sign.

You also might want to bring a bumper sticker from home, to contribute to what’s become a sort-of public art display, on the directional sign at the pass.  As you can see, the town of Alma is just 5 miles to the south.  I’ll tell you about my stop there, on the next page.

If you’re looking for a hike at Hoosier Pass, park your car, gear up, and set out on the trails that lead to the west, out of the dirt parking area.  Your goal is to end up on the 4-wheel-drive road that ends near the north end of the parking area.  All these paths eventually join together…

… putting you on this road, which passes by a campground, then gains some altitude — you’ll probably gain about 700 feet by the time you reach the high point.

The dirt road gives you a beautiful view of the jagged mountains to the west.  I think one of the peaks in the middle is Clinton Peak.  On the left is the base of Mount Lincoln (a 14’er), and on the right is part of the ridge that leads to North Star Mountain.

On your way up the dirt road, make a mental note of this path, which is marked with a “no vehicles” stake. If you attempt to make a loop out of this hike, this is where you’ll be coming back down, to rejoin the jeep road.

Directly below and to the left of your path, you’ll have a view of the Montgomery Reservoir, which is fed by the Middle Fork of the South Platte River.

The road continues its climb, as it makes a graceful curve around the hill.  Notice the patch of snow up ahead — which, by mid-June, still hadn’t completely melted (but it did create a muddy patch to hike through).

Halfway around the curve, you can look back at where you’ve been.  The mountains to the west are a little less dramatic, but quite beautifully lit in the evening hours.

Up the trail a bit further, here’s another look back.

Around 12,100 feet, you reach a junction of dirt roads.  Off to your left (looking south) you’ll see some remnants of a mining operation — mostly just some piles of old lumber, that were, at one time, part of some sort of building.

You’ll also spot remnants from the mining days at the junction itself — debris like this rusty old cable, that’s now tangled up with wildflowers.

There’s also an old mine tunnel here.  It looks like the digging didn’t get very far, since it only goes a few feet underground.

A couple of the dirt roads at the junction lead to private property.  They obviously end at a fence and gate, so there isn’t much of a point in hiking them.  If you continue over the ridge, you should be able to see another building from an old mine (at least, so I’ve read — I didn’t go far enough to see it).

In order to make this hike into a loop, you’ll need to do a little more climbing.  Look for the stake that reads “20 B”, or perhaps “208”.  You’ll probably have to gain 150 feet more in elevation, to get to the top.

On the way up, I turned around and took a picture of the junction.  The road on the lower-left is the one that brought you up the hill.  The one on the upper-left is a dead-end at a fence, and the one that runs off to the right, downhill, should be the one that takes you to that other old mining building, which I didn’t see.

At the top of the hill, the road fades, and you find yourself in the middle of a barren knoll, marked by a few cairns (piles of rocks).  This view looks north, back towards Breckenridge and Dillon…

… and this shot looks south.  You can see the Montgomery Reservoir again (it’s not very picturesque, unfortunately), as well as Highway 9, cutting a path down to the bottom of the valley.  Alma is in the distance.

You could drive to the top of the hill, using the same roads I hiked, but ONLY if you have a high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicle.  The road is almost safe for a regular car, but there are several big dips and washouts that haven’t been repaired, which would almost certainly cause problems for a smaller car.

I mentioned that the dirt road disappears at the top of the hill.  When I noticed this, I started to wonder, how exactly is this a loop trail?  From the top, there is no established path back down — you get to make your own.

At first, I followed the ridgeline, until I noticed a very faint set of ruts, that led to an old mining shaft.  I hiked down to the ruts and followed them…

… past some more mining ruins (which are obviously dangerous)…

… and eventually found my way back to that rocky slope that connects to the dirt road.  This “path” was almost too steep to hike — it required a great deal of care to establish a solid footing, and avoid a rockslide.

Once you’re back on the dirt road, the rest is easy.  I hiked down to the pass, and officially declared my exercising to be done for the day. After all, I had spent the morning and midday hiking at Loveland Pass, then tacked on another 3 miles or so, here. I was ready to drive back to my hotel in Silverthorne for a steamy shower and some sound sleep, but first, I drove a bit further south, to check out Alma.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Silverthorne, through Breckenridge, over Hoosier Pass, and in to Alma.

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