“A popular and easy 14er just outside Breckenridge.”
— Matthew Coye
The multitude of mountain goats on this mountain provides a dangerous distraction for curious dogs, so leashes might actually be a good idea on this one.
Quandary Peak is one of the easiest and most accessible Fourteeners in Colorado. Just 20 minutes from downtown Breckenridge and around 2 hours from Denver, the trailhead can be reached by any 2WD car. Unlike many other 14ers, a summit of Quandary does not require driving over any sketchy mountain passes.
Features: Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Need to Know
While an easy 14er, Quandary Peak is still an undertaking for the average person. Bring sun protection and plenty of water! Expect 1.5-2 hrs for fast trail runners and 4-6 hrs for the average hiker.
Note: Even though land management says dogs are to be leashed, you'll see many dogs and few leashes.
This route is almost entirely class 1 and thus provides a fun and attainable summit for ambitious trail runners. As a matter of fact, there is an annual "Quandary Crusher" race up this mountain every summer.
Hopefully you enjoy talus fields, as everything above treeline (~11,800 ft) is rocky, loose, and/or tumbling. It makes for quite fancy footwork on the descent! The climb is always worth it. Enjoy the spectacular views of the Tenmile Range on the summit, as well as Mt. Baldy across the way.
Breaking above treeline you climb the stone staircase that was made for giants and embrace the burning sensation.
Once you get to about 13,100' there is a nice 'flat' part of the ridgeline that doesn't last long enough. Your eyes will be drawn to the seriously steep push up to the summit while traversing this bench. This next part will have your heart racing and legs screaming, but once you see the summit.... You'll see
From Breckenridge, drive south on CO 9 for 8 miles. Turn right onto the Blue Lakes Road (850). This can be fairly tricky to find: it's immediately before a sharp left turn on a switchback headed up Hoosier Pass, just as the grade gets steep. (NOTE: there is a different trailhead for Quandary, right off CO 9 and closer to Breckenridge. It is better marked but its trail is less often traveled due to steeper grades).
There is a parking lot just to the right. Although it is not the official Quandary Peak parking, it is a good option. To get to the actual trailhead: from here things become pretty apparent - just drive a hundred yards before turning right onto 851, shortly after which there should be a large parking lot with trailhead signs and a latrine. Overflow parking should remain along the side of 851, and not 850, as the residents of this area see enough traffic and don't deserve to have their driveways blocked.
From the TH off 851, walk up the road to a clearly marked trail, heading west nearly parallel to the road. The trail is clear, easy, and relatively low grade. In about 0.3 miles there is a large boulder to the right of the trail. Turn right around it. The trail is clear during the summer months, but in the event that it is covered with snow it's easy to miss this turn. After gaining about 700 vertical ft, you'll start to pass through some clearings, some of which are fairly flat, at 11,300'. The trail crosses some abandoned mining roads, but clear signs should keep confusion to a minimum.
At 11,700' the trees become sparse. The ridge pops into view around 11,800'. The trail brings you along the left side of the ridge. Follow the switchbacks up towards the ridge proper, which you should reach at around 12,400'. From here the summit is visible and it's more or less impossible to get lost. At 13,100', angle left along some flats to stay on the ridge. From here the trail gets rockier but is still clear; the grade gets steeper but is still manageable. At 13,400' ft trail stops switchbacking and heads more or less straight up until you hit the 14k' mark. From here, continue up along the summit ridge and celebrate!
Flora & Fauna
You'll find yourself above tree line for the vast majority of this run. While the wildflowers aren't that remarkable, the overly friendly mountain goats and marmots are. For those unfamiliar with the former, mountain goats are sodium-deprived brutes and will go to great lengths to acquire any salty fluid, including drinking any human or dog urine they come across.
History & Background
Quandary Peak, while lumped in with the Mosquito Range Fourteeners, is the only 14er truly in the Tenmile Range. It is consistently one of the most crowded routes every summer.