What happens when you decide to close the computer for a day and take up some of Colorado's prime hiking? Just ask Dagmara Mach and friends.
Peak 9 OverviewHike Breckenridge Ski Resort’s second oldest Peak.
- Distance from Denver International Airport: 108 miles/approximately 2 hours of driving (depending on traffic)
- Difficulty level: Considered a Class 2 hiking route, Peak 9 is relatively gentle and easy to climb for all levels
- Elevation: 13,195 feet
- Terrain Overview: Gently sloping Rocky Mountain tundra with views of the Tenmile, Front, and Gore Ranges
- Season: Peak 9 can be hiked year round, but be aware of avalanche danger in spring and winter months
- Activities: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Mountaineering
- Access: Via Peak 8 (North Ridge), Via Peak 10 (South Ridge), Via Breckenridge (East Ridge - described below)
Directions to Peak 9 RoadUsing Breckenridge Ski Resort’s gondola on North Park Avenue as your landmark, head south toward Ski Hill Road, where North Park turns into South Park. Drive another 0.3 mile and take a right on Village Drive. In another 0.3 mile, you will arrive at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center parking lot. Turn left into the lot and head straight back towards the only dirt road in view. You have arrived at County Road (CR) 751, more commonly referred to as Peak 9 Road. From here, head right toward the mountain.
After 0.5 mile notice a gated road to your right, but keep left. When you see the stables to your left, stay right. At around 3.0 mile you’ll drive under a lift. Stay on the main road to pass Peak 9 Restaurant and continue your ascent. Near 3.6 miles you reach both Peak 9’s highest chairlifts and the hiking trailhead. If you had the good fortune of arriving here equipped with four-wheel drive and high clearance in late summer, CR-751 will let you drive her treacherous rocky road all the way to the top. Driving this gem in earlier months, however, will only take you as far as the snowmelt, requiring some on-foot action to reach the top. If you’re craving some late season turns, bring your skins, and drop into Breck’s infamous 4th of July Bowl, which on good snow years can hold snowpack through Independence Day.
Capturing the Present on Peak 9My eyes are shut as I sit in front of my computer, exhausted. Though firmly attached to her own devices, my childhood best friend, Hannah, is perched next to me. Sitting so close I can touch her or even talk to her if I want to, and sometimes I do, she is set against a backdrop of forest with scents of pine, chirping birds, and sounds of water flowing from the creek below our windows—a constant reminder of everything just beyond our reach. Right as I’m beginning to feel sorry for myself, something small, round, and slightly wet bounces off my face.
I snap open my eyes to see that the projectile was a grape. Hannah is across from me on her exercise ball, looking at her own computer screen as she bounces to a Disclosure song.
“Let’s go somewhere,” she says, smiling. “I need to get away from this computer.”
In May, Hannah moved from Cleveland, Ohio, where we grew up, to my 640-square foot, one-bedroom ski condo in Breckenridge, Colorado. Having given up on her childhood dream of becoming a scientist, after realizing it was far duller than the sexy lab coats, hipster glasses, and peer-reviewed journal parties would have you believe, she packed her bags and fled the windowless, environmentally controlled dungeon laboratory that had been her second home. Leaving her precious beakers behind, she joined me instead in pursuing the slightly less noble, but infinitely more social and entertaining field of digital marketing. As she now had several windows to show her what she was missing while tethered to her work inside, for Hannah, the move was an upgrade.
Work might be an inescapable evil needed to pay the bills, but we refuse to be chained to our two person desk. Instead, we’ve decided to break our days up into a series of micro-vacations so we can live in an “on-the-road” state of mind.
“Peak 9?” I ask. Without hesitation, I toss some water, my iPhone, the rest of the grapes, and my camera into a daypack.
Hannah nods and slips into her hiking boots. “I have to be back here for a call in an hour.”
At 10,000 feet in elevation, the glaring sun beats down on us as we step outside. To our left, Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Four O’Clock Run has nearly melted and the adjacent creek is raging.
We pile into my Subaru Forester, pull our hoods up, drop the windows, pop the sunroof, and pull out of the drive. Hannah blasts Biggie on the sound system as we head down Ski Hill Road bopping our heads and bumping loudly toward Village Drive.
It isn’t long before we enter the White River National Forest. I pause at the gate where County Road 751 (aka Peak 9 Road or The East Ridge) begins, check the clock so I can time my ascent, and enter the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest.
At 13,195 feet in elevation, Peak 9 is the first in the Ten Mile Range to reach the 13,000-foot mark, and each bend in the rugged road to reach it opens to a new breathtaking view of the Colorado Rockies.
Charging up a particularly steep rise littered with boulders, my Subaru catches air.
“Dag, I feel like I’m going to die,” Hannah whines. Her knuckles turn white as she grips the handle above the passenger door. “And that’s not good for your suspension.”
The warm summer air flows through the open windows. It feels fresh and slightly dewy, as if a storm is coming. Kelvin, my dog, and his best friend Bodhi hang out of the backseat windows. Their jowls billow in the wind as they lick the breeze.
I have a terrible thought that I want to say out loud, but I don’t. We’re never going to make it back for her conference call.
I keep driving as we approach a bend in the road. We haven’t traveled this far before, which is exciting. Soon after we reach the landing and I check my iPhone for full bars, I bring the car to a halt.
Opening up over the town of Breckenridge to views of Keystone Resort and Arapaho National Forest’s 13,690-foot Mount Baldy to the southeast, the scene up here is a stunning contrast of green on blue.
I’m starting to feel guilty about Hannah’s call. “So, you know that there’s no chance of us making it back to the condo in time for your meeting in 20 minutes, right?” I ask, somewhat sheepishly. “But don’t worry, I brought the iPad, and the keyboard.”
“Fine,” Hannah says after a long pause.
The call goes off without a hitch and Hannah starts to relax again.
Finished with responsibility for the time being, we start our hike to the top. For me, it’s a meditative experience. Though I don’t actually meditate, I imagine that this is what people feel like when they do. Here in the mountains, I feel connected and at ease, my mind at rest, and clear of thought.
I tune into the songs of birds and the buzzing of insects. Grasses rustle in the wind. The sounds of the landscape swirl around us in a gentle melody, washing away the day’s tension, and bringing us back to a more relaxed, natural state. Unlike work, which often requires that I think and plan outside of the present, hiking brings me into the now, allowing me to experience each moment as it happens rather than through a series of previously accounted for expectations.
The piles of snow that littered the peak a week ago have since turned into water, streaming towards recesses in the ground and forming reflective pools. Everything seems so alive and I’m soothed by the trickling rivulets around us. It’s rare to be alone in Colorado without really having to work for it, and with no other humans currently in sight (except for Hannah, of course), I feel a deep gratitude for our precious solitude in this incredible landscape.
It’s ironic to me that disconnecting is the only way by which we can truly achieve the sense of connection we all seek. It seems that the more “connected” the world becomes, the further away we feel from it. Virtual reality is a poor substitute for the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of nature.
Even when we’re surrounded by people, our near constant attachment to our mobiles, iPads and MacBooks, leaves us isolated. We crave to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. For me, there is no better place to experience this than on a mountain—a living, breathing, dynamic ecosystem, that unlike anything man-made doesn’t need our hard work to sustain it, but rather welcomes us into its life-giving embraces.
Reaching a hillside near the top, I pause and take a seat to watch the storm rolling in over Dillon Reservoir. It looks almost as if it might reach us, but it’s just short. Kelvin runs up to lick my face and I scan the ridge of Bald Mountain, our other favorite daytime getaway.
Breck is sleepy today. I can’t see any other hikers moving across the 6-mile span. On the off chance that the rain does change trajectory and descend on us we begin our descent. Though we had just hiked this same path, everything looks different on the way down. What we’re able to see in the mountains is all about perspective. Simply stopping and turning 20 degrees in any direction can typically make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a whole new place.
We stay atop the mountain as long as we can, and when we get back to the condo our creative juices are replenished. We drop our things on the bed, strip off our clothes, don robes, and grab our notebooks before we head out for a writing session in the sauna.
Hiking Gear for Peak 9
- Water bottle or hydration pack
- Zeal Optics Polarized Fairmont Sunglasses
- Norröna Lofoten GORE-TEX Active Anorak Jacket
- Bricks Bars Paleo Protein Bars
- Sony Alpha a7 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Black Diamond Liquid Point Pant
- SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks
- Breckenridge Trail Map (available for purchase at the Breckenridge Welcome Center, 203 South Main Street)