Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pennsylvania Gulch Snowshoe

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,400 ft - 11,105 ft
Elevation Gain: 705 ft
Date Hiked: 14 January 2012
Dogs: Off Leash
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Tags: #snowshoe, #breckenridge, #coloradooutdoors

Pacific Peak (13,950 ft), Unamed Peak, Crystal Peak (13,852 ft) (barely visible), and Peak Ten (13,633 ft) dominate the view of Pennsylvania Gulch.
Pennsylvania Gulch is a lesser known but scenic snowshoe south of the Breckenridge Ski Resort in the hamlet of Blue River. It is known mostly to locals who use it extensively. Snowmobiles are allowed on the road but did not bother us at all.

You get to the trailhead by traveling 3.4 miles past the last Breckenridge traffic light and then turning left onto the Blue River Road. Proceed about 0.2 miles then turn bear right on Royal Drive. Bear right at the junction. Proceed about 0.2 miles then turn right on Regal Circle. Proceed about 0.1 miles. Turn right on Coronet Drive. Travel on Coronet Drive about 0.6 miles. The trailhead is by the information kiosk.

Map showing the location of the trailhead and the general route. 
The trailhead
Ruins of an old cabin less than 0.5 miles up the trail
The route follows Pennsylvania Creek up a eastward traveling gulch.  It starts out in the trees and heads steadily uphill for the first 0.5 miles. After that it levels out and comes to nice wide open expanse at 1.0 miles. This broad meadow filled with willows peaking out of fluffy snow mounds made the trip worth while. The views back down the valley were stunning as well with Pacific Peak and Peak 10 dominating the western horizon.

Typical early trail segment...in the trees
Breaking out into the meadow at 1.2 miles.  You can see the route on the left in the distance.
The only people we met were two cross-country skiers who turned around after the large meadow once the trail returned to the trees at 1.75 miles. We decided to continue and after another half mile in the trees we came to another open area and decided to continue to its end before turning around. This brought us to the spot at 2.5 miles where the trail crosses the creek. Along the way we crossed two other trails. Trail 6113A at 2.0 miles took off to the left while 113A at 2.35 miles crossed the creek and ascended into the trees on the right.

Whipped cream and willows grace Pennsylvania Creek
Looking west towards the Tenmile Range
There as been so little snow in Summit County this year, that I having been wearing microspikes everywhere instead of snowshoes.  This trail was no different, but since I had never done it before I wore snowshoes just in case.  They weren't necessary.  It is amazing how sore your hips feel after 3 hours in snowshoes.  The wider stance stretches muscles that aren't used very much.  I was glad when we turned around and headed back down.

The rocks on the area are high in iron and have a pleasing red tint.
Where the trail crosses Pennsylvania Creek...our turn around point
Pennsylvania Gulch is a pleasant outing that is suitable for beginners and skiers who like wide trails and a gentle slope (e.g. no head meet tree introductions).  I would take others there just to see the views of Tenmile Range.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this trail. It's just as good in the summer for hiking or mtn biking, and if you do ever take 6113A, if you follow the ridge, instead of dropping over it into Indiana Gulch or Dyersville, it eventually rises above tree line and provides a great view of Baldy. Go past the saddle and up towards the tree on the 4 wheel road, and just as you reach the trees, there is a uses post marker for a trail, just a metal marker not the new wooden signs with trail numbers etc. Follow tat marker to the small single track trail to the right, it eventually turns into an old mining road, steep and narrow, and connects up with the portion of 611 right before the trail crosses the creek for a third time. It's a great loop!