Summertime is peak-bagging season in Colorado, and Copper Mountain Resort is the perfect spot to explore some of of the high country's most inspiring crags, including Copper's very own 13,205-foot Jacque Peak, located just to the south of the ski area, about 1.6 miles south of Union Peak. We love all our local mountains, but here's a short guide to three of our favorite peaks.
The popular SummitPost.org website places Jacque Peak in the South Gore Range, cut off from the main body of that range by Gore Creek, and from the Tenmile Range by West Tenmile Creek.
Because of its location, Jacque Peak's summit offers immense views of the surrounding ranges, including almost all of the highest peaks in Summit and Eagle counties, as well as the more distant summits of the 14ers in Aspen's Maroon Bells Wilderness Area.
Jacque Peak also overlooks the industrial landscape of the historic Climax Molybdenum Mine. While this particular view might not fit the definition of mountain wilderness, it's nevertheless a vital part of Colorado's heritage.
One of the easiest ways to reach the summit of Jacque Peak is to use Copper Mountain's American Eagle chairlift to gain altitude. From the top of the chair, follow the American Flyer liftline to the end and keep heading southwest until you can see the unmistakable summit of Jacque Peak. Then follow the obvious ridgeline, with is known as Jacque Peak's northeast ridge. For alternate access, read the SummitPost,org section on Jacque Peak, with directions to the Tucker Gulch trailhead off Highway 91.
Mt. Royal/Peak One
Kids love climbing peaks, too, and luckily, there's a great little mountain in nearby Frisco that's perfect for a family outing. 10,502-foot Mt. Royal can be climbed in just a couple of hours, with the trail passing by the historic ruins of Masontown, an old mining camp that was destroyed by an avalanche.
Summit views include expansive vistas of Dillon Reservoir and the Continental Divide around Loveland Pass, and the healthy forest at the top includes a small grove of bristlecone pines, which can grow to be thousands of years old. For detailed directions to the Mt. Royal Trail, visit this U.S. Forest Service website.
It's very important to stay on the trail. Many people have required a rescue from the steep cliffs of Mt. Royal after wandering just a few hundred yards away from the trail.
The trek up to Mt. Royal is also the first leg of the route for 12,933-foot Peak One, one of Summit County's landmark summits, towering over Frisco and forming the bulwark of the Tenmile Range where it meets I-70. To reach Peak One, continue south along the summit ridge from Mt. Royal. This part of the hike includes strenuous Class 2 hiking and isn't suitable for small kids, but it can be done by pre-teens and teens with previous hiking experience. Visit this SummitPost.org web page for more details.
In contrast to most of the jagged peaks in the Gore Range, 12,777-foot Buffalo Mountain is a rounded hulk of a mountain, with no real obvious summit but fantastic views of Dillon Reservoir and the local ski area trails. Buffalo Mountain overlooks Silverthorne and Frisco. The trek to the summit is a moderate four-mile hike, with a 3,200-foot elevation gain.
The trail starts at the end of the densely populated Wildernest neighborhood, illustrating the proximity of Summit County exurbia and backcountry wilderness. The no-nonsense trail was rebuilt in 2004, making it one of the better summit trails in the area. Get all the details on climbing Buffalo Mountain at this SummitPost.org web page.
Hike safely and Leave No Trace
Remember, climbing any peak in Summit County is a challenge. Each year, dozens of people need to be rescued from local trails, usually because they get lost, or get caught in bad weather. Be prepared with the proper gear. Carry a map and compass and know how to use them. Thunderstorms can build up almost every day in the summer, so it's important to start your climb early so that you're ready to descend if there's a lightning threat. The American Hiking Society has a great web page covering all the safety info you need.
It's also important to enjoy the mountains respectfully, without leaving behind any trash and taking nothing but pictures. The best information is available at the Leave No Trace website.