Quandary Peak

Salida

Rugged ridgeline hike to the top of one of Colorado's more accessible 14ers.

Hiking Severe

Distance
11 km
Ascent
1 km
Descent
1 km
Duration
4-5 hrs
Low Point
3.3 km
High Point
4.3 km
Gradient
20˚
VIEW ON MAP
Quandary Peak Map

Description

Quandary Peak (14,271 ft), just south of Breckenridge, is one of the more accessible 14ers in Colorado. It’s proximity to a road and relatively straightforward hike make it so, but the journey to the summit is not easy. It requires an elevation gain of nearly 3,500 feet in only 3 miles over rugged terrain, and exposure to potentially extreme weather. The challenge is worthwhile to stand on Quandary’s proud summit, and it makes a good introduction to the rigors of peakbagging Colorado’s 14ers. This route can be done at any time of year, but may require specialized gear like crampons and axes in winter.

Begin from the signed trailhead just off FR 851 in White Mountain National Forest. The first mile or so is along an old jeep road through the forest, switchbacking ever higher toward the treeline. The trail is well marked and generally easy to follow. Leaving the trees behind, views open up in all directions and you’ll be staring up Quandary’s barren East Ridge and the trail that climbs it.

Follow this path, which is fairly obvious most of the way, and marked with cairns in some places. Trend generally upward, sometimes dipping to one side of the ridge and sometimes staying on top, following the path of least resistance. After about 2.3 miles it steepens significantly and you may have to use your hands to negotiate boulders, loose talus, or snow. Along the way keep an eye out for the famous local residents, mountain goats, which are quite common up here. At just over three miles from the start comes the summit, and huge views over surrounding mountains and ranges. Enjoy your time on top, then descend the way you came. As with other mountains in Colorado, hiking Quandary Peak makes you vulnerable to monsoon storms and lightning. These build almost every afternoon in summer, so start the hike early in order to get back below treeline by noon.

Sources: https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/colorado/hikes/quandary-peak-hike-east-ridge https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whiteriver/recreation/bicycling/recarea/?recid=40645&actid=91

Difficulty

Severe

Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area