Route Finder: 3 hidden (and not-so-hidden) neighborhood trails
Meadows and mountainsides make our front and backyards. Trailheads surround us, and we all share the wildness of Summit County. They’re easy to access, but some of them go unnoticed. Gazing at your neighborhood mountains and forests is one thing — immersing yourself in them is another thing completely.
These three neighborhood trails have shown me that there are serene havens right outside our front doors. They are far enough from town to feel wild and remote, yet no more than a few miles by foot. As the summer has transpired, it seems that more trailheads have stepped out of hiding. These are my favorites — for now.
Meadow Creek, Frisco
Mileage: 4.66 miles to Eccles Pass (one way); 4 miles to third meadow (one way)
Elevation gain: 2,743 vertical feet to Eccles Pass; around 2,000 vertical feet to third meadow
Estimated time: 5-6 hours, depending on hiking experience
Coming from Denver at the end of May, I passed by exit 203 on Interstate 70 and was surprised to see a trailhead.
“Meadow Creek, what a peaceful trail name,” I thought. I was astonished that, after countless times on I-70, I had never before recognized the trailhead. It must have been all the snow that covered it in winter, or, perhaps, I’ve been speeding through these roundabouts far too quickly.
The trail’s name suits its features well. Once over the first steep incline, the trail evens out slightly. Through thick pine and aspen forests, the trail eventually leads into an expansive meadow. In this alpine valley, I found some of the most vibrant, green scenery I’d ever witnessed. From here, I was able to see glimpses of Dillon Reservoir and the Upper Blue River Valley.
Little did I know this was the first in a series of meadows. The second was much larger and even more expansive. I recall my jaw dropping by sheer reaction. This was a heavenly expanse, with views towards the upper valley and its surrounding mountains, one of which I learned later is Chief Mountain.
Continuing on towards Eccles Pass, I followed the trail to a third alpine meadow. Here, I spent some time lying in the sun. There were many wildflowers sprinkled about, so I had to choose a seat carefully. Eccles Pass was visible in the distance; however, this was where I turned back. The rest is for another, longer adventure.
Mount Royal, Frisco
Mileage: 1 mile to Old Masontown ruins (one way); 2 miles to Mount Royal summit (one way)
Elevation gain: 1,372 vertical feet to Mount Royal Summit
Estimated time: 1-3 hours, depending on hiking experience
I keep my head on a swivel in pursuit of hiking trails. It seems like the trails that aren’t as obvious — those without an overcrowded parking lot or numerous reviews online — are some of the better ones.
In the early weeks of summer, I noticed hikers emerging from the forested area at the end of Main Street Frisco. When I embarked in that direction one afternoon, I found a small footbridge and paved pathway. After following it for about 10 minutes, I came to the Mount Royal trailhead. Although I knew I wasn’t far from town, the silence and serenity of the aspen groves made the trail feel more secluded than it was.
I came across the mining ruins of Old Masontown. From this ghost site, the trail steepened significantly. The intense climb was well worth the shortness of breath, for at the summit are views of Tenmile Canyon, Dillon Reservoir, the Continental Divide, Swan and Buffalo mountains, and Keystone’s slopes.
This short but challenging hike is a hidden gem, one that I wasn’t aware of until very recently. After just two miles of hiking, Frisco and the rest of civilization below seemed so small. I will do this hike again, for it provides the remoteness I’m seeking without high mileage.
Crystal Lakes, Breckenridge
Mileage: 2.8 miles to Lower Crystal Lake (one way); 4.9 miles to Upper Crystal Lake (one way)
Elevation gain: 1,893 vertical feet to Lower Crystal Lake; 2,808 vertical feet to Upper Crystal Lake
Estimated time: 4-5 hours to Lower Crystal Lake; 7-8 hours to Upper Crystal Lake, depending on hiking experience
On Highway 9 heading south to Hoosier Pass are many trails tucked away on county roads. There are no signs for Crystal Lakes or Spruce Creek, yet both are located in this vast landscape of pine forests and Quandary Peak (14,265 feet).
I wouldn’t have known of this trailhead if I hadn’t taken Spruce Creek Road on a whim — my natural curiosity brought me that direction. Unlike most roads that are home to trailheads, Spruce Creek Road wasn’t overflowing with parked cars.
I followed Crystal Creek Road and passed meadow after meadow filled with wildflowers and a winding creek. What greeted me at the end of the road was a beautiful, blue alpine lake. Cradling the perimeter of the lake was an immense rock wall.
I later found that the peak at the top of this rock wall is Father Dyer Peak. Below the mountain’s peak is a rustic cabin. Here I turned back, unaware of where the trail led. Had I gone farther, I would have reached Upper Crystal Lake after another two miles of hiking. I saved that adventure for another day.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.