Length: 7.8 miles, one-way
Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Why we love it: A free shuttle runs between trailheads offering hikers the opportunity to cover more ground than they could with a typical out-and-back
When to go: Year round. Popular for hiking and mountain biking in the summer and fall, and backcountry skiers and snowshoers in spring and winter
Restrooms: There are bathrooms at the Rainbow Lake trailhead
Dogs: Yes, voice control allowed
Among a slew of iconic trails in Summit County, the Peaks Trail is unique. The nearly eight-mile trail connects the towns of Frisco and Breckenridge, and has an adjacent bus route between the two for quick and easy returns. While some mountain bikers and hikers opt to take this trail out-and-back in the same day, the shuttle is ideal for those who might not be up for a 16-mile round-trip trek, as well as those who prefer a loop to retracing their steps.
Starting from Frisco, hikers endure a steady uphill climb for the majority of the route, arriving approximately four hours later at the base of Peak 7 at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Reversing the route offers a relatively easy downhill cruise to Frisco—popular with backcountry skiers and beginner mountain bikers. Both directions ensure sweeping views of the Tenmile mountain range and peaceful forest terrain throughout.
On a sunny morning in mid-February I strapped on my snowshoes in Frisco and set off for the Peaks Trail. The snow was well packed for the first mile or so, but became increasingly deep and fluffy as the trail ascended along the icy trickle of Miner’s Creek. After a few surprising hip-deep post-hole plunges off the trail, I found my stride and enjoyed a peaceful wander through the woods. Although ample accumulation from the night before made the trail almost undetectable, I soon spotted fresh moose tracks to guide me from one trail marker to the next.
After the next uphill climb I stopped to catch my breath and gaze at the view of the Tenmile range in the distance. I quickly put back on the layer I had shed during the last steep section and spent some time at the top enjoying the scenery, the sunshine and the sandwich I picked up from Butterhorn Bakery in Frisco earlier that morning. Before long a chilly breeze whipped up and urged me to get moving again. At some point the moose tracks had veered off the trail and headed into the trees, but here the trail was more clearly defined from frequent use as it drew closer to the ski resort. I moved to the side to allow a few skiing duos to schuss pass, wondering if they had spotted the moose that had been post-holing ahead of me all day.
Eventually the loud music and joyful shrieks of the ski resort replaced the quiet stillness of the forest, and the Independence SuperChair lift at the base of Peak 7 came into view. I smiled at snowboarders who stared at my snowshoes as they weaved around me and snagged a sunny spot at the Sevens slope-side bar just in time for happy hour. After tossing back a few cold ones, I rode the resort gondola into town and hopped on the Summit Stage bus for the 30-minute ride back to get my car at the trailhead in Frisco.
Getting There: The Peaks Trailhead in Breckenridge is located near the Grand Lodge at the base of Peak 7 off of Ski Hill Road. In Frisco, the Peaks Trail can be accessed via the Rainbow Lake trailhead, but parking at the Miner’s Creek trailhead instead gives you access to the Summit Stage bus stop (located at the Summit County Commons) for an easy return from Breckenridge. From Denver, take I-70 west to exit 203 for Highway 9 south. Turn right on Peak One Boulevard, then right on Miner’s Creek Road.