Add Breckenridge, Colorado to your list of places to visit. It’s famous for its skiing, but it really sparkles in the summer. I spent a week here and could have easily stayed a month.
Situated at 9600′ at the base of the Tenmile Range, about twenty minutes south of Interstate 70, the old mining town retains its charm and has plenty to satisfy the vacationing tourist.
Playing the tourist wasn’t what I had in mind when planning my stay. There were too many nearby trails, lakes, and mountains calling out to me, but the Breckenridge Music Festival was also tempting me with sonic delights; what was I to do? Adventures or Good Music? Which to choose?
Thankfully, I could do both! On the first day of my stay I visited the White River National Forest – Dillon Forest Station in nearby Silverthorne. The rangers were very helpful and armed with their suggestions, a copy of National Geographic’s ‘Eagles Nest and Holy Cross’ Trails Illustrated Map, and information sent to me by Paul Magnanti I had more options than I could possibly take advantage of in a mere seven days. Decisions, decisions.
One thing I didn’t have to decide on was what time to hit the trail. This being the Rockies in summer, early is the only safe option since thunderstorms are a daily occurrence. Best to be off the summits and high passes by noon. I didn’t mind the early mornings since the drives to the trailhead were short, well under thirty minutes. Starting early also meant I was back at the Grand Timber Lodge by mid-afternoon at the latest. Plenty of time for a shower, nap, dinner, and the less than five minute drive down the hill to the Riverwalk Center for an evening of fine music. This was more convenient than Santa Fe!
I won’t regale (or bore) you with concert reviews; what I will say is I heard six compositions I had never heard before, and while not a fan of every piece, I was glad for the opportunity to expand my musical horizons. As for the hiking, there were no bad trails, though two stood out, and if you find yourself in Breckenridge, you can’t go wrong with these.
Quandary Peak is one of Colorado’s easier 14ers; which is not to say it is an easy hike (there’s over 3300’ of gain), but if you’re in good shape, properly acclimated, and start at sunrise, you should make it. Don’t expect solitude on this trail; climbing 14ers is a very popular past time and you’ll likely share the summit with dozens of other people. Still, the views are worth it, and since you’re making a dawn start, you’ll be ahead of much of the herd.
The other trail, my favorite hike in the area so far, is the one recommended by Paul Magnanti. The Spruce Creek Trail to Upper Mohawk Lake has it all: trees, wildflowers, streams, waterfall, lakes, mining ruins, and incredible views. Most people stop at Upper Mohawk Lake, but if you have the time and energy, continue on the trail to its end at Lake 6. It’s not far, and you’ll be glad you did.
Like many of the places I visited on this road trip, it was hard to leave Breckenridge, but I look forward to returning here in the future.