Steep push, stunning views on the Lenawee Trail outside Keystone
BY THE NUMBERS:
Mileage: 7.6 miles round trip
Time: 4-5 hours, depending on athletic ability
Elevation gain: Roughly 1,786 feet
Gear: Mountain bike, hiking boots, tennis shoes
Getting there: From I-70, take exit 205 for Silverthorne and Dillon. From Silverthorne go east on Highway 6 toward Keystone. Just past keystone, turn right onto Montezuma Road (County Road 5). Follow Montezuma Road for about 4.5 miles to the intersection with Peru Creek Road. Follow Peru Creek Road for about 2 miles to the Lenawee trailhead on the left side of the road.
The area behind Keystone is some of the most wild and scenic countryside in Summit. Montezuma Road is a gateway to some incredible trails, most of which are off of Peru Creek Road. At this point in the hiking season the gate remains closed — to prevent road and trail damage — until Peru Creek Road is completely free of snow patches.
Chihuahua Gulch, Lenawee, Argentine Pass and other trails can all be accessed from Peru Creek Road, a dirt road that’s easy to drive, but becomes increasingly rocky, narrow.
Having already explored Chihuahua Gulch and Argentine Pass on previous excursions, I decided to check out what Lenawee had to offer.
A Walk In the Woods
From the onset, Lenawee was steep, yet easy to follow the entire time. Small streams ran across the trail here and there, but other than the occasional snow melt drainages, the trail was dry. For mid June, I was impressed by the efforts of early wildflowers — solo buds had begun to spring up, the first of many more to come.
This time of year, the aspen trees really work their magic on the landscapes. Looking across the valley from Lenawee, I imagined a painter’s palette. The interwoven spruce and aspen trees created a stunning blend of green, one that couldn’t easily be recreated.
About a mile into our hike, I could see Peru Creek Road far below. There is some significant elevation gain in this first stretch, I thought.
Above It All
Taking a break nearly atop the ridgeline, I surveyed the neighboring hillside. Below I could see the neglected relics of the old Jumbo Mine, and imagined what it must have been like to live and work in the Peru Creek drainage area a hundred years ago. I acknowledged some steep, sizable channels fanning down from the contiguous hillside.
Avalanche chutes covered the entire face. Downed trees laid like fallen dominoes in these narrow channels, testaments to the power of nature.
Rugged mountain faces came into view as the tree line receded. Aside from the mining structures below, there wasn’t a single house or building in sight and what a comfort that was.
The Fun Has Just Begun
After the brief period of wide views, it was back into the trees. I’d gone roughly 1.5 miles and had begun to hit patches of snow that were lingering, steadfast in the shade. In a forest this dense, I was expecting some snow. The trail began to switchback some and after another half mile on the trail, the view really began to open up. From this alpine tundra, I could see the breathtaking ridgelines of the Continental Divide. There was an outcropping of large rocks here, and I wished in that moment that I’d brought my chalk and climbing shoes to clamber around on the formations.
Had there been less snow at this plateau, I would have continued on towards Thurman Gulch and the backside of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. The view from this expanse was definitely worth the arduous, heavily-forested initial push. This is definitely a trail I want to return to later this summer, both to test the bouldering opportunities and to reach the backside of Arapahoe Basin.
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