Best Hiking in Breckenridge – The Ultimate Guide

Best Hiking in Breckenridge – The Ultimate Guide

Breckenridge isn’t just an incredible place to come skiing or snowboarding — it’s also an amazing summer destination, rain or shine. In fact, a common local saying is that ‘people come for the winter but stay for the summer.’ From mountain biking to climbing and hiking to watersports, there are more things to do during summer in Breckenridge than you can possibly do in just one vacation. But by far, the most common thing to do out here is hiking and summer hiking in Breckenridge is absolutely next level. 

Peak summer is mid-June to late August, with peak wildflower season being mid July to early August depending on altitude and snowfall from the previous winter. Average summer temperatures hover around 75 for the high, with variations around cold fronts and warm bursts. Most houses and hotels up here don’t have air conditioning, for the simple fact that it doesn’t typically get hot enough to need it. These pristine summer conditions plus hundreds of hiking trails and 300 days of sunshine each year, make Breckenridge and the Colorado mountains the perfect hiking destination. If you’re looking for more information about hiking in the mountains, such as what to pack, when to go, and how to prepare, check out our complete guide to hiking in the Colorado mountains

Just near Breckenridge alone, there are over 300 named trails, with a massive range of difficulty from family friendly all the way to 14ers multi-day backpacking trips. The town of Breckenridge sits at 9,600 feet, with most hikes going up significantly in elevation. Take care of yourself to avoid altitude sickness, and make sure to pack and plan appropriately for all your hikes. We’ve assembled our list of favorite hikes, ranked in order of difficulty. 

Best Easy Hikes in Breckenridge

The Breckenridge Troll

  • Distance: 1.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 121 Ft

Finding the Breckenridge Troll is the most family friendly thing to do outside in Breckenridge and includes a super short walk to see Isak Heartstone. Originally an art installation (by Thomas Dambo) in town for the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, the 15ft tall troll was relocated here as a fun destination for families. 

Isak Heartstone

Aspen Alley

  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 528 Ft

Aspen Alley is a must-do fall and summer hike that’s a personal favorite of ours. At only 2.6 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation gain, this hike is perfect for families or hikers who want to adjust to the altitude. The hike is a series of switchbacks that slowly climb a hillside that’s just covered in aspen trees. Bright green leaves rustle in the summer breeze, or visit in the fall to experience one of the best fall hikes in the area. We recommend starting at the bottom of the trail, or the western terminus located at the Breckenridge Sawmill Museum. 

Aspen Alley trail winding through fall aspens. 

Minnie Mine Loop

  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 209 Ft

Minnie Mine Loop is a less trafficked trail in Breckenridge, so you’re less likely to fight the crowds here. Located in beautiful French Gulch, this trail is accessible from town and is a easy hike for the family at only 1.5 miles roundtrip. You can also take a little side trail to one of the last remaining gold dredges, Reiling Dredge, which was originally built in 1908 and sunk in a nearby pond in 1922. It’s since been stabilized so it can stay standing for future generations to enjoy. 

View from French Gulch Road looking towards the trail for Minnie Mine Loop (trail is in the trees up and to the right).

Blue Lakes Waterfall

  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 78 Ft

Blue Lakes Waterfall is one of the places we always take visitors to when they come to see us. There are two ‘blue lakes,’ both of which are at a quite high elevation right around tree line. You can park right near either lake, and there’s several trails you can use to explore the area. Our favorite is the Blue Lakes Waterfall, which is a short, flat trail that takes you to the cascading waterfall between the two lakes. This area is extremely heavily trafficked so make sure to visit during off times such as the evening, early morning, or weekdays!

Part of Blue Lakes Waterfall

Sapphire Point Overlook

  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 76 Ft

Sapphire Point Overlook is a super easy and short trail that leads to one of the most popular and easily accessible overlooks in the county. It’s less than 100 yards from the parking area to the overlook, making it a great option for families with small kids and anyone who isn’t a hiker. This area is just outside of Breckenridge, located in between Breck and Frisco on the way to Keystone.

Chipmunk posing at Sapphire Point Overlook

Best Moderate Hikes in Breckenridge

Black Powder Pass

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 Ft

Black Powder Pass is still on the shorter side at only 3.4 miles roundtrip, but the elevation gain leads us to put it in the ‘moderate’ category. The hike starts around 11,500 feet in elevation at the top of Boreas Pass and goes up to a saddle at 12,5000 feet between Bald Mountain and Boreas Mountain. This hike offers spectacular views and tons of wildflowers, which is why it made our list of favorites. Plus, you get to drive Boreas Pass Road, which is one of the best scenic drives in the area, especially in the fall.

View looking over the other side of Black Powder Pass.

McCullough Gulch

  • Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1607 Ft

McCullough Gulch is our top pick for the best moderate hike in Breckenridge and is one of the hikes we recommend the most. With crazy mountain views, two alpine lakes, 1 huge cascading waterfall, and tons of wildflowers, McCullough Gulch is the quintessential mountain hike to see it all. This hike has a pretty significant amount of elevation gain, but the views are worth the effort for sure. Please note: because of this trail’s popularity, reservations to park are required – please read our entire write up for more information and the link to reservations. 

View down McCullough Gulch valley. 

Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls

  • Distance: 3-10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Varies

Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls are our favorite destinations in the Breckenridge area, and we frequently do this hike during peak summer months. Because there’s a total of 7 lakes and one waterfall in this valley, the actual length of the hike depends on where you park and at what point you decide to turn around. We highly recommend at least making it to Mohawk Lake, which is the third of the seven lakes. This hike is also fairly heavily trafficked, so it’s best to avoid weekends and holidays. The hardest part of this hike is understanding where to park and hike, so we’ve written a detailed guide. If you have a 4×4 with decent clearance, it’s worth it to drive to the upper parking lot to save yourself significant miles.

View of Lower Mohawk Lake and surrounding mountains, as seen from above Upper Mohawk Lake

Best Difficult Hikes in Breckenridge

Quandary Peak

  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3326 Ft

Quandary Peak is known for being one of the ‘easier’ 14ers in Colorado, but make no mistake, this hike is a doozy. There’s no such thing as an easy 14er, and you should make sure you train and prepare properly for this hike. With all that seriousness out of the way, Quandary Peak is a spectacular hike and has amazing views throughout the entire hike. Because of its popularity and status as the only 14er in Summit County, reservations are required for parking. Read our post for more information and links

View looking north from Quandary Peak

Red Mountain

  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2580 Ft

Red Mountain is only recommended for advanced hikers and true adventurers. This hike is seriously difficult and has no trail, which means you must navigate your way to the top. When we picked this trail for a day hike, we didn’t realize there was no trail, and actually had to use our Garmin InReach to navigate back to our vehicle. Despite its difficulty, this hike is worth the effort and has amazing views of the surrounding mountains, especially of the 10 Mile Range and Boreas Pass. 

Looking at the 10 Mile Range from peak of Red Mountain

Wise Mountain via North Fork

  • Distance: 7.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2273 Ft

Wise Mountain via North Fork is a difficult hike through pine forest that ends at a super cool old mining cabin perched on top of Wise Mountain peak. The views of the 10 Mile Range are incredible! You cannot enter the cabin because the floor is collapsed, but this hike is well worth the uphill effort to see such an amazing place! Please note that offroading rigs can drive to the top, but the average vehicle will stop much closer to the trailhead. The more clearance you have, the farther you can get up the trail to save you some mileage.

Old mining cabin on top of Wise Mountain

Best Hikes near Breckenridge

While Breckenridge is known for its outstanding hiking, there’s tons of other opportunities in the surrounding areas and towns that are worth the visit. In fact, some of our favorite hikes are ones outside the Breckenridge area, in surrounding towns like Keystone and Frisco. If you’re willing to branch out a bit, these other hikes are great options!

Best Hikes Near Hoosier Pass

Hoosier Pass is a high mountain pass near Breckenridge. It’s part of the Continental Divide, meaning the water on either side of the pass eventually runs into two different oceans – south runs into the Atlantic Ocean and north goes to the Pacific Ocean. There’s many wonderful hikes near the pass, all of which vary greatly in difficulty and features. Read more here about our favorite Hoosier Pass hikes.

Best Hikes near Frisco & Copper Mountain

Both Frisco and Copper Mountain are only 10-15 minutes away from Breckenridge, so these hikes are not a far drive at all. Frisco has a great main street that’s worth the visit and their restaurants tend to be less busy than those in Breckenridge. These hikes are at a lower elevation, so they are snow-free for a longer period that the higher elevation options in Breck. 

Rainbow Lake

  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 150 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

Rainbow Lake is a short and popular trail right near Frisco downtown. It’s 1.5 miles roundtrip, and goes to Rainbow Lake. This is a great fall hike with large groups of aspens all over the place. Because it’s on the easier side, we would recommend this hike for families or those who aren’t able to hike as far. 

Rainbow Lake

Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse

  • Distance: 0-6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 0-1,548 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Mayflower Gulch is a really popular trailhead past Cooper Mountain near Freemont Pass. You can either park at the trailhead, or continue along the old mining road in a 4×4 vehicle to the gate. Mileage ranges depending on where you park and where you hike to. If you park in the 4×4 area, you’re right at a series of old mining cabin ruins. If you want to hike further, you can explore the area’s trails by summiting nearby ridges or going up to more mine and cabin ruins. This area is set in a beautiful mountain basin and is a fun exploration day packed full of mining history. 

Old mining cabins in Mayflower Gulch

Shrine Ridge

  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1030 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Shrine Ridge is one of the best wildflower hikes in the state, and is an amazing hike in late July during peak wildflower season. This hike also offers great views and is worth the moderately difficult effort. The best wildflowers are all the way at the end of the trail, so give yourself extra time to explore and take pictures in that area. Remember to Leave No Trace by staying on trail and don’t walk through the wildflowers for pictures, no matter how tempting it may be. 

View from Shrine Ridge with carpets of wildflowers

Wheeler Lakes

  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1496 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Wheeler Lakes (not to be confused with Wheeler Lake, singular) is a great day hike right outside of Copper Mountain near Frisco. We just recently hiked this trail for the first time, and were pleasantly surprised. The beginning of the hike is near the highway, but the rest winds through beautiful aspen groves and pine forest before reaching two alpine lakes. Instead of finding fish in these waters, we were overjoyed to find them chock full of tiger salamanders, which is the Colorado state amphibian and was super cool to see!

Wheeler Lake

Lakeshore Perimeter Trail

  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 246 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

Lakeshore Perimeter Trail is a 5.4 mile loop that’s relatively flat and is on the easier side. We do this hike several times each season, and love how most of the trail hugs the shoreline of Dillon Reservoir. You’ll walk through new growth pine forest and have endless views of the sapphire water of the lake. Because it’s on the easier side, this is a great option for families and an easier hike to help acclimate to the altitude.

Looking over Dillon Reservoir as seen from the Lakeshore Perimeter Trail

Best Hikes near Silverthorne & Dillon

Silverthorne and Dillon are the other two main towns in Summit County, and both have more city-like amenities like a movie theater and Super Target. Hikes in this area go up into the Gore Range, which is just north of the 10 Mile Range where Breckenridge and Frisco are. The Gore Range is more known for its difficult hikes and more jagged, steep mountain sides as compared to other areas of the Rocky Mountains. There’s some easier hikes in this area, like Lily Pad Lake and Lower Cataract Lake, but you’ll find most others to be more difficult but still well worth the effort. 

Lower Cataract Lake

  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 223 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

Lower Cataract Lake is quite a bit farther north than Silverthorne, and would be about a 45-minute drive from Breckenridge. Even though it’s farther away, it’s still a great option for an easy, flatter hike to get you outside. The hike goes around the shoreline of Lower Cataract Lake, and from the trailhead you can see a huge waterfall that flows into the far side of the lake. At only 2.3 miles roundtrip and minimal elevation change, this is a great option for an easier adventure. 

Lower Cataract Lake

Lily Pad Lake

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 396 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

Lily Pad Lake has two main trails to get there and we recommend taking Salt Lick to Lily Pad Lake instead of the traditional Lily Pad Lake route. If you want something shorter, the traditional route is still worth it, there’s just less to see since most of the hike goes through a burn scar from a couple years ago. The forest is growing back, but that takes a lot of time. If you go from the Salt Lick trailhead, it’s a little bit longer, but the views are great and there’s more to see. This route is especially great in the fall, which the huge aspen grove turns bright yellow and orange. 

Lily Pad Lake

Acorn Creek Loop

  • Distance: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Acorn Creek Loop is another one of our favorite hikes and we frequently complete this loop several times each season. It’s especially good for an early season hike, when some of the higher elevation hikes aren’t snow-free yet. Flowers peak earlier, and the snow is gone quicker. We call this hike the quintessential mountain hike because it has meadows, aspen groves, pine forest, amazing mountain views, and fun stream crossings. There’s even a huge field of wild sunflowers that we love seeing in the spring!

Looking at the Gore Range over a field of sunflowers as seen on Acorn Creek Loop trail

Ptarmigan Trail

  • Distance: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1141 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Ptarmigan Trail is a shorter and easier hike than Ptarmigan Peak, but still offers great views. In fact, the view from the Ptarmigan overlook is one of our favorite in the county, offering amazing views of both the 10 Mile and Gore Mountain Ranges. We hiked this in the summer, but plan to return in the fall since this hike is full of aspen trees. 

Overlooking Summit County and Dillon Reservoir from Ptarmigan viewpoint

Surprise Lake

  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1489 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Surprise Lake trailhead is right near Lower Cataract Lake, which means it’s a bit farther away from Breckenridge but it is worth the drive. It’s lightly trafficked, so you’re less likely to see a bunch of other people, and Surprise Lake is a beautiful alpine lake with lily pads and mountain views. Along the hike, you’ll pass through pine forest and aspen groves, and the aspen groves here are some of our favorite in the area since they are especially lush and green.

Surprise Lake

Best Keystone Hikes

Keystone is a much smaller area than Breckenridge or the other surrounding towns, but two of our favorite hikes are over this way, Chihuahua Lake and Gray’s Lake. When people talk about bright blue alpine lakes, the top picks are typically lakes in the San Juan Mountains like Blue Lakes near Ridgeway, but few people know about the bright blue lakes located right here in Summit County. If you’re looking to see something truly incredible, we highly recommend these best hikes near Keystone! 

Chihuahua Lake

  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1879 Ft
  • Difficulty: Hard

Chihuahua Lake is our top pick when it comes to alpine lakes, and it stands above the rest because of it’s bright blue water. Although some websites list this hike as difficult, we could call it more moderate. The hardest part is the last push to the lake, when you’re already tired and the terrain is quite steep. You’re well above tree line most of the time, so this hike is a great option for high alpine meadows and mountain views. 

The water at Chihuahua Lake really is that blue!

Gray’s Lake

  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1200 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Gray’s Lake is just slightly farther down the road from Chihuahua Lake and we recommend a 4×4 vehicle with decent clearance to make it to the trailhead. It’s a lighter blue, but shines brilliantly in both clouds and sunlight. The stream running out of the lake is a light grey/blue color, something you won’t see anywhere else. This hike is a little shorter than Chihuahua but is still moderately difficult and has a hard final push up to the lake. 

Gray’s Lake as seen on a cloudy rainy day

Meadow Loop and Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 475 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

Meadow Loop and Ridge Trail is an underrated hike in between Keystone and Dillon that offers great views of Dillon Reservoir. It’s considered an easy hike, and the first quarter mile is the most difficult part (hiking clockwise). At only 3.2 miles roundtrip, this is a great option for a simple day hike that still has lots to offer.

Stay Connected

with Us


Recent Posts