Meet Your Mountains: Hiking Peak 1 in Frisco
Editor’s note: Welcome to Meet Your Mountains, a hiking guide series covering iconic peaks found just outside your back door in Summit County. After a long 2018-19 winter, be wary of lingering snow and variable conditions above tree line.
FRISCO — One of the most remarkable, rewarding aspects of living in Summit County is being able to see a mountaintop from your house, walk out your front door, climb that mountain and return to your house in town, all in the same day.
You can see the Tenmile Range from almost anywhere in Summit. From Silverthorne and Dillon, you can see the Tenmile Range and the Gore Range. And in some places, like Frisco’s Main Street, you can see far into the distance toward Grays and Torreys peaks.
These mountains become familiar landmarks to Summit County residents, and for some, they are a source of inspiration and a constant call to action. It’s about creating a personal bond with your mountains. It’s about climbing them, creating memories on their summits and being able to look up at them with respect, having been there.
So many Summit County residents can see the stunning trinity of Mount Royal, Mount Victoria and Peak 1 from their front porches. These mountains are part of everyday life.
Setting sights high
To access Peak 1, hikers need to jump on the Mount Royal trail, then over to Victoria and, finally, up to the peak’s summit.
There are a couple of access points to the Mount Royal trail, but most park near the Interstate 70 off-ramp and walk down the recpath. The first portion of the trek is a breeze.
It’s steep, but when you know it only gets steeper, you’re able to quiet any reluctance from the body early on.
In less than an hour, you’ll near the summit of Mount Royal. The trail is often crowded with people up until one-quarter mile from the summit of Royal, where the trails split. There is a signpost here giving mileage for the offshoots of Victoria and Peak 1.
Onward and upward
The push to Victoria is no flatter than the hike to Royal’s summit. It’s steep, but you’ll be thankful for the switchbacks and turns in the trail en route to Victoria. You’ll also likely be thankful that this portion of the trail isn’t as sandy as the initial climb to Mount Royal. The push to Victoria has more shade, too.
As you gain elevation, the forest changes from aspen to evergreen, and as you get even higher, there are fewer and fewer trees. You’ll pass an old mining cabin and potentially massive mounds of snow. Even in the thick of summer, there are still thick pockets of snow in the shade.
At times, Victoria’s trail is so steep you’ll be tempted to grab onto roots and tree branches, pulling yourself upward. Parts of the trail can be muddy after recent rain, making the hike all the more interesting. So can the pockets of snowmelt covering the trail: It’s not hard to lose the trail for a couple of minutes, only to find it again on the other side of some snow.
Then, there is scree like you wouldn’t believe. Victoria seems to have a false summit of her own. There are rock cairns stacked all over the ascent to Victoria: different passages wrapping left and right. At her summit, near a large radio tower, gnarled pine trees seem dwarfed by the elements. Looking up, you can see Peak 1, which looks so close, and the weather station before it, which looks even closer.
Despite the sight, there remains a couple of hard pushes and another hour of hiking.
Not quite there
For the next hour, you’ll encounter treeless tundra and boulder scrambling. Peak 1 seems to be getting close, but there are numerous moments when you’ll discover you weren’t as close as you thought. The false summits — four of them — are a bit defeating at times. You’ll take a breath, chug water and crush another section of scree only to get to the top and see more false summits unfolding before you.
On your way to Peak 1, look for a white bird with patches of tan and black spots in its feathering moving completely camouflaged in the Alpine grasses. It’s a white-tailed ptarmigan (for which nearby Ptarmigan Peak in Silverthorne is named). These birds are totally white in the winter to blend in with the snow. Above their eyelids is a band of red, a piece of color that stands out from their otherwise flawless concealment.
Finally, you’ll reach the bottom of what you’ll believe has to be the actual ascent to Peak 1. Looking down over your right shoulders are the rocky fins you can see from I-70 as you drive past Officers Gulch and those turn-offs. Here, there is a lot of rock scrambling and digging in with trekking poles. At the very top, you have to cross over a patch of thick snow to the actual summit. You’ll see the rest of the Tenmile Range looking daunting as ever to the south of Peak 1.
From the summit looking down toward Frisco, you can trace the familiar landmarks, maybe even locate your house. You’ll see the elementary school, and you’ll spot the fire station and the large reddish apartments near the trailhead. Then, you’ll smile at the unspeakable feeling of summiting the peaks in your backyard.
Mileage: 2.9 miles one way (from Second Avenue trailhead)
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Elevation gain: about 3,665 feet
Getting there: From Interstate 70, take Exit 201 for Frisco’s Main Street. Park at the large paved parking lot at the base of Mount Royal, right off I-70, or travel east down Main Street and turn onto Second Avenue. Follow this road, cross the paved recpath until reaching the gravel parking lot. Take the trail to Mount Royal. The Peak 1 trail continues from the summit of Mount Royal.
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