Best hiking in Colorado at every level: Escape the crowds with these lesser-known Summit hikes |

Best hiking in Colorado at every level: Escape the crowds with these lesser-known Summit hikes

Explore some good hiking places everyone can enjoy

Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily
Courtesy of Dillon Ranger District
Courtesy of Dillon Ranger District |

Suggested hikes

• Easy: Bouldering Trail (Windy Point), 0.5 miles — Trailhead off of Swan Mountain Road, toward Breckenridge off of Highway 6.

• Intermediate: Barton Creek Trail System, Westerman Loop, 2 miles — Trailhead off of Barton Road in Breckenridge.

• Difficult: Lenewee, 3.8 miles each way — Trailhead off of Montezuma Road, just past Keystone.

More detailed information on these trails and many more in Summit County can be found at

Hiking tips

Dog owners: Be considerate of others on the trail. Dog owners should call dogs to the side of the trail when another user is passing and are always expected to remove dog feces from the trail.

Preparation and safety: Always hike with at least one other person, or tell someone where you will be hiking. Bring extra layers, sunscreen, a lot of water and high-energy food, durable footwear with sole, toe and ankle coverage, rain gear, sunglasses, a hat and gloves. Always keep close watch on developing clouds and weather patterns, noting that high-country thunderstorms and lightning are very dangerous and move in with speed and fury.

Take a summer stroll in the mountains, and it soon becomes a hike, simply because most trails take you up, down and all around. Summit County has walking adventures for all skill levels, with a great deal that can be explored from steps on a well-beaten track making these some of the best hiking in Colorado.

“The Dillon Ranger District manages 434 miles of trail,” said Ken Waugh, district recreation staff officer for the Dillon Ranger District within the White River National Forest. “We have a huge variety of experiences and settings, fantastic views and many lakes and streams.”

It’s easy to pop onto your go-to local hiking trail, or if you’ve never been, to follow the masses on crowd-favored routes. Some of the gems, however, are the hikes that are more hidden.

“There are many popular trails,” Waugh said, “but there are a lot of little-known trails that I would challenge folks to explore.”

Here are some of Waugh’s suggestions, and more detailed descriptions can be found and printed out from the White River National Forest website or the Dillon Ranger District site.

Easy: Bouldering Trail (Windy Point), 0.6 miles

Kids can do this hike with ease, and lots of smaller rocks for them to climb on make it extra enjoyable. Adults can work on their bouldering skills, too, just take caution to the risks of falling and hurting an ankle, or worse.

Enjoy the rows of lodgepole pine as you walk and take in views of Lake Dillon while on the short loop. The elevation gain on the trail is a total of 280 feet, making this the best hiking in Colorado for those trying to inspire their children to love hiking.

This is one of many trails that offers great hiking near Breckenridge. Access this trail from Swan Mountain Road. Take the Silverthorne/Dillon exit 205 off Interstate 70, and head south on Highway 6 for just more than 2 miles. At the traffic light, turn right onto Swan Mountain Road (toward Breckenridge), and proceed another 2 miles. Then turn onto the Prospector/Windy Point Campground road and continue for a half-mile until you can turn left into Prospector Campground. Just past the fee station, there is a parking lot on the right, with no fee to park.

The trail is open in the summer to hiking, as well as mountain biking. Bikers are expected to yield to hikers, but keep your eyes up and aware for fast flyers, especially with kids on the trail.

Intermediate: Barton Creek Trail System, Westerman Loop Trail, 2 miles

Otto Westerman was a photographer in Breckenridge in the 1860s, and the Westerman Trail is named after him. The trails in this area use a section of the Peaks Trail, which runs between Frisco and Breckenridge, to make looped routes possible. The Westerman Trail follows a creek for about half-mile and continuously passes through lodgepole pine and aspen trees. There is 400 feet of elevation gain from start to finish along the loop, making this one of the ideal hiking places for those seeking more of a challenge.

Access this trail from Barton Road. Take the Frisco/Breckenridge exit 204 off I-70 and head south. Turn right at the traffic light on Coyne Valley Road coming into Breckenridge, and then proceed about 1/3 mile. Turn left at the T-intersection onto Airport Road, and proceed another 1/3 mile, and then turn right onto Barton Road. Continue for about half-mile, and then bear right at the intersection onto a gravel road. Travel another 1/5 mile and look for the short road that leads to a gate on a road to the right. Park near the gate, but do not block it or the fire hydrant on the main road.

The parking at the trailhead is very limited, so make sure you do not block the road, the gate or the fire hydrant. Mountain bikers and horseback riders also use the trail.

Difficult: Lenewee, 3.8 miles each way

Trail use on this more difficult route is considered low, so it’s a great place to catch some solitude this summer. The trail is open to mountain bikers and horseback riders, as well as hikers.

In the Peru Creek drainage, this area is rich in mining history. There are numerous underground mine shafts scattered about, so don’t venture off the trails. The area is also known for its wildflower abundance, most prominent around mid- to late July.

The trail traverses up to tree line through fir trees and lodgepole pine, gaining an elevation of almost 2,000 feet in the first 2 miles from the trailhead. After you ascend into the alpine tundra, the trail becomes less evident and it’s important to pay attention to the route, marked by rock cairns along the trail.

The route’s highest point is at 12,437 feet in elevation. Since the trail takes hikers above timberline, be sure to begin the hike early in the morning, and be cautious of afternoon thundershowers and lightening, which move in quickly.

Views of Dillon Reservoir to the west and the mountains of the Continental Divide to the east and south make for some of the best hiking in Colorado and well worth the effort. The Jumbo Mine can also be viewed from the trail.

“Lenawee Mountain is actually not really a single mountain, it is more long ridge line, with two highpoints and five side ridges fanning out to the south,” according to an author’s post at

To access the trail, take the Silverthorne/Dillon exit 205 off I-70, and travel east on Highway 6 toward Keystone. Just past Keystone, turn right onto Montezuma Road, also known as County Road 5. Follow the road for about 4.6 miles to the intersection with Peru Creek Road, also known as FR 260. Stay on this road for about 2 miles to the Lenawee Trailhead on the left side. A small parking area for this trailhead is a few more yards up the road to the right.

Originally posted in the June 13, 2015, issue of the Summit Daily and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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