Best Hoosier Pass Hikes

Best Hoosier Pass Hikes

Hoosier Pass is a high mountain pass that sits at 11,542 feet in elevation. It separates the two towns of Blue River / Breckenridge and Alma, which is also two different counties, Park and Summit counties. The road is paved and maintained in the winter, unlike some other major passes like Independence Pass near Aspen, since it’s part of a military route that must stay clear.

Perhaps the coolest part of Hoosier Pass is the fact that it’s part of the Continental Divide, which means water that flows on either side of the pass flows into different oceans, even though they’re only a few feet apart at the source. The south side flows into the Atlantic Ocean Watershed and the northern side flows into the Pacific Ocean Watershed. Pretty cool!

There’s lots of hikes in the area, which is why we’ve assembled our list of favorite Hoosier Pass hikes so you can pick the best one for your desires and abilities. For a complete list of our favorite hikes in the area, specifically in Breckenridge and the surrounding areas, read this post about the Ultimate Guide to the Best Hiking in Breckenridge.

Best Hoosier Pass Hikes

To get to Hoosier Pass, you can drive on a paved road up to the top of the pass and park there. There’s a huge sign noting the pass and it’s elevation, as well as its Continental Divide status, which is a popular picture spot. There’s a couple hikes that leave from this parking area, and there’s even more options within a few miles of the pass. 

Hoosier Pass Loop

  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 688 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Hoosier Pass Loop is a perfect hike to get the feel for Hoosier Pass, and its high elevation provides awesome views in all directions. It’s only 2.8 miles roundtrip, but falls into the moderately difficult category because of some significant elevation gain during a shorter portion of the hike. 

hoosier pass loop
Part of the Hoosier Pass Loop hike

Crystal Lake

  • Distance: 3.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 285 Ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

Crystal Lake, not to be confused with Crystal Lakes (plural and located closer to Breckenridge), is an easy hike that leaves from the same trailhead as the Hoosier Pass Loop. It’s less elevation gain, and still offers great views but the focus is more on the alpine lake and retired mining area it takes you to. Once you reach the lake, it’s worth it to do some exploring and continue up the old mining road to a huge mining area. All the mine entrances have been collapsed, but there’s tons of rock piles and equipment still laying around. 

Reflection off Crystal Lake

Hoosier Ridge

Distance: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 544 Ft
Difficulty: Easy

Hoosier Ridge is a hike that traverses the ridgeline that runs east from Hoosier Pass towards Red Mountain. In fact, you can summit Red Mountain from this route if you wanted to continue on the ridgeline. Perhaps the most enticing part of this hike is the 360 degree mountain views. Since you’re already starting at a high elevation from the pass, it doesn’t take as much effort to get high enough to enjoy these views. The route can be difficult to follow, so it would be worth downloading the track from an app like All Trails.

North Star Mountain

Distance: 6.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,945 Ft
Difficulty: Difficult

North Star Mountain is one of the 637 peaks in Colorado that range from 13,000 to 13,999 feet, otherwise known as a 13er. The peak sits at 13,406 feet in elevation, and is a difficult hike that’s very rocky. If you are going to attempt this hike, make sure you are acclimated and have appropriately trained. Because of the rocky exposure and high elevation, this trail offers exceptional views of the surrounding mountains, as well as lots of opportunities to visit collapsed mines and mine cabin ruins.

Note: This trail is not recommended for dogs because of all the tough rocks.

Best Hikes near Hoosier Pass

Lake Emma

  • Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 700 Ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Lake Emma is a hidden gem that’s lightly trafficked. It shares a parking area with the popular Decalibron Loop (see below), so even though the trail is more secluded, parking can be more difficult on weekends and holidays. This 2 mile, moderately difficult hike takes you up to two alpine lakes that are high above tree line. There’s amazing views and the lakes are beautiful. Plus, there’s lots of mining history in this valley, so it’s cool to see collapsed mine entrances and old equipment. 

Lake Emma with ice on the lake even in July.

Blue Lakes Breckenridge

istance: 1.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 78 Ft
Difficulty: Very Easy

Blue Lake near Breckenridge is a very easy hiking area that is great for some mountain exploring. There’s two alpine lakes, as well as a large cascading waterfall that flows between them. The hike from the parking to the waterfall is only 1 mile roundtrip, and it’s relatively flat. It’s a beautiful area that’s easily accessed. It’s quite near to Hoosier Pass, and the lakes sit in the shadow of North Star Mountain directly to the south.

View overlooking Lower Blue Lake near Breckenridge mountain goats on a rock in the foreground and mountains in the distance
View looking towards Lower Blue Lake from the dam.

Wheeler Lake

  • Distance: 7.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1246 Ft
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Wheeler Lake (not to be confused with Wheeler Lakes, plural) is one of our favorite hikes near Breckenridge and is one of the area’s best kept secrets. A seven mile hike up an extreme off-roading course (should only be attempted by experienced off roaders with serious rigs) takes you up to a beautiful alpine lake that has two amazing waterfalls flowing into it. During peak summer time (late July), there’s carpets of wildflowers everywhere you look, and the views down valley are incredible. This adventurous hike also has a fun stream crossing and passes under the historic Magnolia Mill, which is still standing near the beginning of the hike. 

Wheeler Lake

The Decalibron Loop

  • Distance: 7.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3136 Ft
  • Difficulty: Difficult

The Decalibron Loop is a really cool alternative to Quandary Peak and offers the opportunity to summit three fourteeners in less miles than Quandary (7 miles roundtrip). You used to be able to summit four fourteeners, but as of 2021, there’s some issues with private property on Bross that leaves hikers having to take a bypass trail instead of summiting. Hopefully that’s fixed in the future! We enjoyed hiking the Decalibron more than Quandary, and would typically recommend it over the Quandary trail. For up to date information, we recommend checking All Trails. 

Enjoying the view from the top of Mount Lincoln.

Winter on Hoosier Pass

Hoosier Pass can be a great winter destination too, especially since the road is maintained throughout the year. That being said, you must know what you’re doing since there are areas that have high avalanche risk. Most people looking to enjoy some winter sports stay on the front facing side of North Star Mountain, which is the peak to the west of the pass. When you’re driving by, you can see the large, flat face and this a great place for an easy skin or snowshoe. If you’re going to adventure beyond that, make sure you have done your research, as just recently two showshoers were killed in a avalanche on the path that leads to Crystal Lake. Avalanches are a serious topic, and you shouldn’t go out without first researching.

hoosier pass hikes
Snowboarding on Hoosier Pass at sunset

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