Quandary Peak
excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Incredible Backcountry Trails
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    Distance: 6.2 miles (round trip)

    Walking time:  5 1/4 hours

    : 3,450 ft. gain/loss
       Quandary Peak Trailhead (start): 10,850 ft.
       Quandary Peak: 14,265 ft. 

    Trail: Generally well marked and easy to follow.

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are usually covered with snow from November through mid-July.

    Vicinity: near Breckenridge

    Quandary PeakQuandary Peak


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    As Colorado’s fourteeners go, Quandary Peak is a relatively easy hike. Like all fourteeners, getting to the top requires a significant expenditure of energy, but the climb is only 3.1 miles long and there is now an excellent trail most of the way. Before 2001 the trail was much more primitive, but it has since been significantly improved by an organization called the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. The trail has been rerouted up the south side of the mountain’s east ridge, and long sections of stone stair steps have been constructed in several areas to facilitate the assent. Its easy access has made Quandary Peak one of the state’s most popular 14,000-foot climbs. Even in winter a surprising number of people carry skis and snowboards to the to summit for the descent down the mountain’s gentle eastern slopes.

    The trail begins by angling up from the road into an open forest of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. Soon the path begins to turn from north to west, crossing over two or three faint jeep roads as it continues its moderate climb. After about 30 minutes you will see a section of the old Quandary Peak trail departing on the right, and soon afterward, at an elevation of about 11,700 feet, the route crosses timberline.

    With the trees gone it is easier to see what lies ahead. The path can be seen climbing up the south side of the ridge and apparently ending at a false summit a mile ahead. At first the false summit blocks the real summit from view, but as you climb higher you will soon be able to see the top of Quandary Peak rising above the left side of the ridge.

    The trail finally reaches the crest of the ridge at an elevation of 12,900 feet, and from that point you can begin to appreciate the great views across McCullough Gulch to the north and Monte Cristo Creek to the south. The Continental Divide runs in an east-west direction 1.2 miles south of Quandary, and in between lie the Blue Lakes of Monte Cristo Creek.

    After crossing the false summit at an elevation of 13,146 feet the trail continues almost due west along the crest of the ridge for the remaining 0.9 mile to the peak. The climb becomes progressively rockier and steeper as you make your way up the mountain, but then with almost no warning it suddenly levels out and becomes a relaxing stroll for the last 150 yards to the top.

    It is said that you can see almost half of Colorado’s 55 fourteeners from the top of Quandary. Lincoln, Bross, and Democrat, which are only two miles south of the Continental Divide, are the nearest ones. The distinctive shapes of Grays and Torreys Peaks are also easily recognizable 25 miles to the northeast, and it is not too difficult to spot the Mount of the Holy Cross to the west. On a clear day the horizon around Quandary Peak is a jagged outline of pinnacles and spires that include some of Colorado’s best known summits.

    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    IIf you are interested in a supplemental map of the Quandary Peak trail
    we recommend:
    Breckenridge-Tennessee Pass  (Trails Illustrated, map #109)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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