Quandary Peak, Quandary Peak Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Quandary Peak - 6.2 miles

Quandary Peak Trailhead

Looking north acros McCullough Gulch and the Tenmile Range from Quandary Peak

Looking north acros McCullough Gulch and the Tenmile Range from Quandary Peak

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)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Quandary Peak - 6.2 Miles Round-Trip

Quandary Peak (14,265') 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 14ers.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

It's considered among the easiest 14ers to reach for its modest distance and well built trail. Still, the 3300' climb in just 3.1 miles is no small task, and rocky terrain will challenge even the fittest hikers.

Visitors will enjoy exceptional views that extend across the Mosquito, Gore and Sawatch 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 to this point transitions 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 have big views down McCullough Gulch, south across the Continental Divide and due west up the formidable and final summit push. 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 talus crosses 14,000' (2.9 miles) and relaxes on the final steps to the summit (3.1 miles : 14,265').

Views from the summit are awesome, particularly 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 along a rugged, tapering ridge.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 23.127 W106 03.717 — 0.0 miles : 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

Worth Noting

  • Arrive early to secure parking, avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. Be mindful of changing weather and leave the summit well before storms develop. Expect cooler temperatures, strong sun and wind in the open tundra. Carry versatile layers and sun protection.

  • Hiking poles are 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 Information

  • 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.

Directions to Trailhead

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.

Contact Information

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


"Hiked yesterday. The smell of wildfire smoke was heavy in the air, and as the sun rose the smoke was evident in the surrounding areas. Left trailhead at 4:50am and summited at 8. Although the views were lessened by the smoke, it was still spectacular. Stayed on summit for 30 minutes. Passed about 150 people heading up on my way down. Crowded indeed, but everyone was friendly and courteous. "
Brian  -  Denver, Colorado  -  Date Posted: July 22, 2018
"Even living in Colorado, the altitude got to me on the final ascent. I got to the point where I could only take 20 steps or so before needing to spend 15 seconds catching my breath. The strain was well worth it at the top. You can see practically everything. The descent was tough on the knees, but once you get back down a little way, it only gets easier to breathe and I didn't have to stop once. If you haven't done a peak like this before my advice is to get there early (4 or 5am) and take your time. You will be physically and mentally tested, but the reward is well worth it."
Elliot  -   -  Date Posted: June 30, 2013
"This page is great! 4 hours 40 min. I plan on camping once the snow comes to save on gas."
Tom Wipf  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: November 30, 2012
"My round trip was under 5 hours. This is a great intro to 14ers. None are easy. This one is short and accessible, but you still get killed by rock hopping coming down, and seemingly never make progress going up. It gives one a good idea of the mental toughness and positive attitude it takes to enjoy climbing/hiking these peaks."
Reed  -  kansas city, mo  -  Date Posted: August 21, 2012
"Good first 14er especially if you're acclimated to the altitude. Can be a bit mor of a challeng for people from low altitudes, but definitely worth the effort!"
Stephanie Varga  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: July 10, 2012


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