With four of Colorado’s largest ski areas – all just a short drive from Denver – Summit County is known for skiing. Folks live and breathe winter here. But there’s more than skiing and snowboarding. Summit County is located deep heart of the Colorado Rockies; it’s an area steeped in mining history, rich in shopping and nightlife, and rife with stunning wilderness areas just a stone’s throw from Interstate 70.
Check out these five day trips for when you inevitably find yourself in Summit County this summer.
1. Climb Quandary Peak
Quandary Peak, about five miles south of Breckenridge, is one of Colorado’s easier 14,000-foot peaks, but easy is relative. The peak rises 14,265 feet above sea level, with a trailhead right along a paved highway (Colorado Highway 9.) It’s a pretty straightforward ridge walk to the top, with no scrambling needed, and the peak can be climbed year-round.
2. Boreas Pass Road to South Park
Boreas Pass was the first railroad route to the mining camps of Summit County, a 20-mile route between Breckenridge and Como in Park County. It makes for a fine cross-country ski trip in winter, and skiers can rent out the Section House, a restored cabin at the top of the pass. Once it’s dry in summer, any passenger car can make the drive over the Continental Divide, on a route steeped in history. Once in Como, head west on U.S. Highway 285 to Fairplay, the town that was the inspiration for the cartoon South Park, an onto Alma, North America’s highest incorporated town. Either makes a fine lunch stop after a long drive. Return to Breckenridge on Colorado Highway 9 over Hoosier Pass.
3. Traverse the Gore Range
The mighty Gore Range is a collection of 13,000-foot peaks and stunning remote lakes that runs from Silverthorne to the northwest. Almost all of the range is in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, where no bikes or vehicles may enter. This is wild country. But with two vehicles you can leave one car in Vail and another in Frisco and take a day hike, from Frisco, up the South Willow Creek Trail, over Red Buffalo Pass and down the Gore Creek Trail to your shuttle car in Vail. Many longer backpacking trips can be incorporated into the itinerary as well.
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4. Mayflower Gulch Trail
Mayflower Gulch, located south of Copper Mountain, is one of the area’s most popular trails, and for good reason. It follows an old mining road for two miles into a magnificent alpine cirque, brimming with wildflowers in summer and surrounded by high jagged walls. Some mining cabin ruins provide a testament to the hardy folks who tried to scratch out a living here long ago.
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5. Road trip to Leadville
The historic town of Leadville once was so populous it competed with Denver to be the state capital. The collapse of the mines led to hard times, but the city has since revitalized itself with tourism. Make the pretty drive from Copper Mountain south on Colorado Highway 91 over Fremont Pass to Leadville and have lunch at the Golden Burro. With a full belly, head north out of town on Colorado Highway 24 and stop at Camp Hale, which was the training ground for the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. It’s more pretty scenery as you wind around to the town of Minturn, which makes a fine food stop if you weren’t hungry in Leadville. Hop on I-70 east and head over Vail Pass back to Summit County.