Hike of the Week: Miners Creek
This week’s trail from The New Summit Hiker is Miners Creek. You’ll hike from Copper Mountain to Frisco, scaling the sky-piercing summit of the Tenmile Range. We offer this hike now because regular hikers are in shape for an advanced trek. Rewards are knockout views, golden aspens, an historic logging camp and beautiful Rainbow Lake, a short side trip, along the route.This trail along the top of the Tenmile Range affords unsurpassed views and offers a variety of mountain terrain, from fluttering woodlands to spartan arctic clime. The trail ends at Frisco, where it descends through flower-festooned meadows and woods by sparkling streams. Advanced hikers, acclimated to Summit’s altitude, should be in good physical shape for this trek.Two cars are required for this hike. Leave one car in Frisco at the bikeway parking area, just 0.1 miles east of Interstate 70 exit 201 where the hike will end. (Backpackers may wish to walk the Ten Mile Canyon bikeway back to Copper Mountain, an additional 6 miles.) Then proceed to the trailhead at Copper Mountain.
Drive a second car on I-70 west to Copper Mountain exit 195. Cross the bridge over the interstate and immediately turn left into the Vail Pass-Ten Mile Canyon bikeway parking area. Follow the gas line path 0.25 miles south to the stock drive bridge across from Copper Mountain’s steep east-facing A Lift runs. The trail, beginning at left, uses the Wheeler National Recreation Trail to climb to the Miners Creek Trail. Try to hike in dry weather, as this trail stays wet after a rainfall.The trail rises diagonally southeast across Peak 6’s forested western slope, furnishing great views south along the Ten Mile Canyon toward Fremont Pass. The upper canyon yielded millions of dollars worth of silver in the late 1800s. Two bustling towns below Fremont Pass, Kokomo and Robinson, each had 6,000-plus populations. The narrow path rises over 1,500 feet in two miles to the Miners Creek junction. Guided horseback trail riders from Copper Mountain’s stables may use the first section of the trail.Cross three streams enroute, the only water until after you cross the Tenmile crest and drop down toward Frisco. Bring drinking water along. Dry air at high altitude, along with increased respiration, makes strenuous demands on your body’s fluid reserves.
At 11,280 feet, two miles in, the Wheeler trail links up with the Miners Creek Trail. Veer left here and continue directly east for a stiff climb below the Peak 7 summit. The trail curves at 11,920 feet and heads north behind Peak 7, soon reaching a 12,436-foot elevation. The Wheeler National Recreation Trail crosses the range south (this is hike No. 4 in The New Summit Hiker).Trekking this top-of-the-world trail along the rocky Tenmile Range crest leaves you breathless – both from the vast views and the thin atmosphere. The Continental Divide, with Lake Dillon glistening below, the rugged Gore Range, Shrine Pass, Climax, Mount of the Holy Cross and far-off ranges beyond delight hikers as they scale the 12,573-foot Peak 6 summit and continue along at the 12,400-foot level.Cairns mark the trail, but a topographic map and compass are essential here. A suggestion: Follow the friendly custom of hikers in Nepal. Add a rock to each cairn as you pass. Nepal’s alpine cairns reach 10 and 12 feet, nice during unexpected blizzards.The Miners Creek Trail, constructed in 1936 to connect Frisco to the Gore Trail, descends across Peak 5 to the Tenmile Range’s eastern slope. To the east lies Breckenridge’s glittering “Golden Horseshoe,” a stunningly rich gold storehouse that produced the area’s famed wire nuggets. (See Gilliland’s gold rush history Summit for details.)A green saddle below Peak 4 overlooks a forest pocketed by pretty meadows. Dip down on a trail well blazed and groomed for two miles to a junction with the Peaks Trail at an early logging camp near 10,000 feet.
Northbound on the Peaks Trail, enjoy rich aspen-pine forest laced with noisy streams. The Peaks Trail crosses below 12,933-foot Tenmile Peak and 12,805-foot Peak 1 and parallels the Miners Creek 4WD road. With another one and a half miles to go, the trail enters the Rainbow Lake district, crossing jeep roads (watch for blue diamond trail markers). You can make the short side trip to the lake from here. Later the trail meets the paved bike route. Go left if you wish to exit at Frisco’s Main Street or continue to the car park.As always, enjoy your hike!This trail description comes from the latest edition of The New Summit Hiker, written by Mary Ellen Gilliland. The guidebook offers 50 hikes near Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain, Keystone-Dillon and in the Ptarmigan Peak and Eagles Nest Wilderness. The book is available for $16.95 at local sporting goods, grocery and book stores. Or, call (970) 468-6273 to mail order. Ask for a free autograph.
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