Have you ever wondered how mountains get their names? Some names are pretty mundane and obvious, like the numbered peaks (one through 10) of the Tenmile Range, which runs north-south from Frisco to Breckenridge.
But other names are a bit more obscure, like Jacque Peak, the highest summit near Copper Mountain Ski Area. We haven't been able to find out if it was named for a French fur trader who roamed the area back in the 1800s, or maybe for a French ski instructor back in Copper Mountain's Club Med days.
But other names names can be traced, including Copper Mountain itself, which was named by an early prospector looking for gold. But after digging a few tunnels, he found only low-grade copper ore — hence the name.
A number of local mountains got their names during the mining area, including Summit County's highest summit, Quandary Peak. Legend has it that the miners who named this mountain were baffled by some of the mineralized ore they found, leaving them in a quandary.
Other local features have names that pre-date the mining era. If you're headed south on Highway 91 to Leadville, you'll cross over Fremont Pass, named for John Charles Frémont, one of the greatest early explorers and scouts of the settlement era, who earned the name “The Pathfinder” in the popular press of the time. After his service in the military and as a guide, Frémont became the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States.
One of our favorite peaks is named after another famed Summit County resident, Father John Dyer, who journeyed on skis from Breckenridge, braving avalanches and blizzards, to deliver Sunday sermons at the remote mining camps around Copper Mountain. Like so many of us, Dyer came to Colorado in mid-life, driven by a desire to see the Rocky Mountains. Father Dyer Peak (13,610 feet) is located in the Tenmile Range, about two miles south of Breckenridge, and is best accessed from the Spruce Creek trailhead.
Other names date from a more recent era, like Vail Pass, west of Copper, along I-70. The pass, and the town, were named for Charles Vail, a highway engineer who routed highway 6 (which later became I-70) through the Vail Valley.
And in the other direction, one Frisco's landmark peaks, Buffalo Mountain, was named because its atypically rounded rounded summit resembles the hulking back of a buffalo from some angles.
Along with Jacque Peak, there are a lot more place names that we're curious about, including Uneva Peak and Wichita Mountain, so we'll keep digging and try to uncover the origins of some more Summit county place names.
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