Quandary Peak, Quandary Peak Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Quandary Peak - 6.2 Miles
Quandary Peak Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.2 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,937' - 14,265' (14,265' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,328' net elevation gain (+3,392' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Quandary Peak is located 7.6 miles south of Breckenridge, Colorado in the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest.
Quandary Peak is the highest point in Colorado's Tenmile Range, and 13th among the state's fourteeners. It's widely considered among the easiest fourteeners to reach, attributable to a modest distance and well built trail. Still, the 3,300' climb in just 3.1 miles is no small task, and rocky terrain will challenge even the fittest hikers.
Visitors will enjoy sensational panoramas from its summit that include peaks from the Mosquito, Gore, Holy Cross and Collegiate ranges:
The trail climbs steadily across two marked jeep roads to your first glimpse of Quandary Peak, Hoosier Pass, and distant peaks of the Tenmile Range (.85 mile - 1.0 mile). It clears treeline and wraps to the south face of Quandary Peak's east ridge (1.0 miles : 11,721').
Here you'll have views of the Blue Lakes, Monte Cristo Creek, and North Star Mountain looming high on the Continental Divide. The relatively even, dirt path you've enjoyed to this point soon yields to rugged talus on a steep, winding climb up the southeast flank of Quandary Peak (1.25 miles : 11,975').
Climbing intensifies to Quandary's well-defined E-W spine. The trail blends easily into the landscape, but is well-marked by cairns and intuitively followed when not. It levels briefly along the east ridge across a wide tundra bench at the base of Quandary Peak (2.15 miles : 13,102').
Here you'll enjoy a revealing look down McCullough Gulch and Upper Blue Reservoir, south across the Continental Divide and due west up the formidable and final push to the summit. Look for mountain goat along nearby ridges, and moose and elk in the adjacent valleys.
At 2.3 miles (13,168') the path narrows and steepens considerably on a tightly wound, rocky path headed directly for the summit. Those with a later start will likely face a good deal of downhill traffic.
Methodical climbing over variously large and loose rock crosses 14,000' (2.9 miles) and relaxes on the final approach to the summit (3.1 miles : 14,265').
Views from the summit are astonishing, notably across the upper drainage and half dozen unnamed lakes in McCullough Gulch. To the west are jagged peaks and ridges that perpendicularly meet Quandary's west ridge and define the Continental Divide, Monte Cristo and McCullough drainages.
Nearby 14ers include Mt Lincoln (14,291'), Mt Bross (14,172'), and Mt Democrat (14,152'). Peer down the Cristo Couloir - defined as a steep gorge or gully on the side of a mountain - a celebrated winter route to the summit that begins from Blue Lake.
The summit is large enough for weekend crowds, but with limited room to explore. Take a few steps west from the summit to find a small wind shelter and measure of privacy along a rugged, tapering ridge.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N39 23.127 W106 03.717 — Quandary Peak Trailhead
- N39 23.370 W106 03.997 — .5 miles : Steady climb through high subalpine forest
- N39 23.464 W106 04.375 — 1.0 miles : Level travel through vestiges of treeline
- N39 23.528 W106 04.842 — 1.5 miles : Steep, rugged climb up southeast face
- N39 23.601 W106 05.047 — 1.75 miles : Nearing top of Quandary's east ridge
- N39 23.669 W106 05.313 — 2.0 miles : Level travel on wide bench beneath summit
- N39 23.718 W106 05.886 — 2.55 miles : Rugged, tightly wound approach to summit
- N39 23.756 W106 06.068 — 2.75 miles : Final approach with good views to north
- N39 23.805 W106 06.183 — 2.9 miles : Cross 14,000' mark
- N39 23.837 W106 06.377 — 3.1 miles : Quandary Peak summit
- Arrive early to secure parking, avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. Be mindful of changing weather patterns and leave the summit well before storms develop. Expect cooler temperatures, strong sun and wind in the open tundra. Carry versatile layers with sun, wind and rain protection.
- Hiking poles are highly recommended to assist with steep grades and uneven terrain. Bring extra water, as high elevations dehydrate the body at a faster rate.
- A couloir is as a steep gorge or gully on the side of a mountain. The Cristo Couloir - which begins from the Blue Lakes Reservoir in the drainage south of Quandary Peak - is one of the most popular mountaineering and backcountry ski routes in Colorado's Tenmile Range. The route gains approximately 2,500' in one mile from the Blue Lakes Reservoir access road to the Quandary Peak summit. The Cristo Couloir is considered a moderately challenging snow climb, and expert ski descent. Interestingly, this route is NOT recommended for summer travel due to rock slides.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the White River National Forest. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles of treeline, or within 150' of any lake or stream.
- Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.
- For those not wishing to camp in the backcountry, there are several developed campgrounds within the White River National Forest. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for information on these sites.
- Fishing is permitted with a valid Colorado fishing license.
- There is no fishing along the Quandary Peak Trail, however reputedly good fishing can be found in the Blue Lakes and Monte Cristo Creek just south of Quandary Peak, and in the McCullough Gulch drainage to the north.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are permitted on the Quandary Peak Trail. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6'.
- Bikes, horses and mechanized vehicles are not permitted on the Quandary Peak Trail.
The Quandary Peak Trailhead is located 7.6 miles south of Breckenridge, Colorado in the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest.
From I-70, take Exit #203 for Breckenridge - Highway 9 and travel south through the towns of Breckenridge and Blue River. Travel 18.3 miles from Exit #203 to State Road 850 and turn right (west). Make an immediate right on State Road 851 (north) and travel .3 miles up the maintained dirt road to the trailhead. Spaces are limited, but roadside parking is permitted.
Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
M - F from 8am - 4pm
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602