Watch: Bootprints Hiking Guide to Peak 1
FRISCO — If there’s a peak besides Buffalo Mountain that’s most synonymous with Summit County, it most likely is Peak 1.
Visible from most pockets of Summit County, Peak 1 has that textbook-look of a rocky mountain. Its ridgeline rises sharply into the skies and clouds from Mount Victoria, Mount Royal and Frisco down below, before the 12,805-foot summit of Peak 1 sinks into a saddle before rising up again for the remainder of the Tenmile Range beginning with Tenmile Peak, or Peak 2.
Once the snow melts — which is variable each year depending on how much snow the county’s received — Peak 1 is a must do for any Summit County local or tourist in solid hiking shape. Though the climb is unrelentingly steep (rising, on average, 1,000 feet per mile) and you will have to traverse some scree above tree line, there is no real technical climbing skills required to get to the top.
Most hikers can begin their hike from parking lots located on Frisco Main Street just off of Exit 201 on Interstate-70. I started my hike across the street from those lots, at the Summit Daily office. From the office, I crossed Main Street and accessed the Summit County recpath and turned left to reach the Masontown trailhead five minutes later.
The hike up from Masontown — a historic 19th century Summit County mining settlement at the base of the cliffs of Mount Royal that was once swept up in an avalanche — is steep from the get-go. Several hundred feet of gain and about a half-mile from the Masontown trailhead you’ll reach a junction with the Chauncey’s trail coming in from left, at which you’ll want to continue on the Mount Royal Trail.
While scaling the Mount Royal Trail, be careful with your footing. Because the trail is so popular for hikers ascending to the Mount Royal outlook and no further the trail is worn and full of loose rock and dirt.
If you’re hiking at a good pace, you should reach the Mount Royal-Victoria-Peak 1 junction 45 minutes to an hour in. From here, 1,200 feet of elevation gain into your hike, you’ll continue straight up to Victoria and Peak 1. While climbing to Peak 1, especially if you are pushing yourself in terms of fitness, break this hike up into thirds. The first is up to this junction. The second third will be a steeper portion, but with better traction, up and over Victoria to tree line. The final and most difficult third will be over scree, traversing over multiple false summits to your final destination of Peak 1.
As you approach the beginning of that final third, you’ll notice how the trees and vegetation in the Alpine area have grown in response to years upon years of ferocious Tenmile Canyon winds ravaging them. I stashed my trekking poles 2,500 feet of elevation gain into the hike at the building that resides atop Mount Victoria. That said, I wish I’d brought them further on the trail — they would have helped for about two-thirds of the remaining climb above tree line.
Difficulty: More difficult
Distance: 3.7 miles to the summit
Elevation gain: 3,681 feet
Starting elevation: 9,124 feet
Summit elevation: 12,805 feet
Elapsed time: 2:47:00 to summit
Average speed: 1.33 miles-per-hour
Average pace: 45.17 minutes-per-mile
Parking: Pull-off lot off of Frisco Main Street near Interstate-70 Exit 201
Ideal for: Alternative to 14er, sunrise hike, talus scramble, 360-degree views
From Victoria, I followed a trail carved through the loose terrain, skirting to the right of a pair of rock towers. Beautiful columbines, the official Colorado state flower, sprouted up between the rocks.
About 3,000 feet of gain into the hike, at about 12,100 feet, I reached the first of several false summits. As you continue to climb to the summit, it may look like you will need technical climbing skills to negotiate what appear to be knife’s-edge ridges like up ahead. On my hike I found the footing and route to be pretty well marked and without the need for more advanced climbing moves all the way to the summit. But always take caution and remain focused.
With the intimidating view of Interstate 70, with cars appearing like ants several hundred feet below, you’ll reach the summit with a lingering snow cornice at the left. The 360-degree views from the peak are amazing. Most all of Summit County is viewable from this geologic landmark — everything from Woodward Copper’s summertime Central Park snow park in one direction, Mount Guyot and Baldy rising over Dillon Reservoir in another and Interstate 70 winding up through the hills to the Continental Divide in yet another direction. Enjoy feeling like you’re on top of Summit County.
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