Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Black Powder Pass

Distance: 3.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 11,482 ft - 12,159 ft
Elevation Gain: 677 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes, in one of the out building for the Section House
Date Hiked: 26 July 2013
Dogs: Off leash
Tags: #hiking, #coloradooutdoors, #mountainpass, #gearguide

Looking east from Black Powder Pass near Breckenridge CO
The view looking east from Black Powder Pass
Black Powder Pass off of Boreas Pass near Breckenridge Colorado is a stunning destination that will take the hiker above treeline, along a flower-lined ditch and up to a verdant meadow filled with willows, flowers, and slap-your-mama views. Even better, this trail is short and therefore accessible to those who don't do Ironman Triathlons every other week.

Section House is a ski hut in the winter. That is Bald Mountain in the background.
The start of the trail is just a small National Forest Service sign
You get to the trailhead from Boreas Pass. This is the top of Boreas Pass Road, which starts on the south end of Highway 9 just as it leaves Breckenridge. It is 9.2 miles from the turn off on Highway 9 to Boreas Pass and most of the route is on a graded dirt road passable with a 2WD low clearance vehicle.

Starting out along the ditch
This one talus field is the only tricky obstacle on the trail.
Once at the pass, the trail begins at a numbered Forest Service trail sign just before the Section House, a 1900's building now used as a hut in the winter. The first 0.7 miles of the trail is along a Boreas Ditch 2 and its occasional water control gates and pipes. Wildflowers galore line the banks and the trail bisects and travels on both sides of the ditch. Don't worry both lead to the same destination.

This Hoary Comma (Polygonia racilis) landed on a Chimming Bell on the Black Powder Pass Trail Colorado
A Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis) butterfly landed briefly on this Chiming Bell just as I passed by.
Breaking out of treeline. The pass is visible in the distance.
At the end of the ditch, the trail bisects again with the right hand route going steeply up hill along a highly eroded segment. The left hand route, which we took on the way back, travels through willows and over roots. Either side will take you above treeline.

View of Quandary Peak and the Tenmile Range
Looking up at Mt. Baldy
Once out of the trees, the ridge to Bald Mountain on the left comes into view and views of the Tenmile Range dominate the west. The route gets steep at this point and heads steadily upwards through open tundra to the left of the creek that feeds Boreas Ditch 2. King's Crown, Queen's Crown, Harebell, Parry Primrose, Chiming Bells, Columbine, Elephant Head, Indian Paintbrush, Bistwort, Monkshead, and Purple Larkspur were just some of the flowers we saw along the way.

Standing on the pass looking south to Boreas Mountain
Wildflowers growing on the backside of the pass
Once at the pass, the trail itself goes over to a view spot looking down on South Park, Georgia Pass , and the route to French Pass on the tall ridge directly ahead. The rugged rocks of Boreas Mountain form a wall to the south. If you are going to climb Boreas Mountain, however, don't start from Black Powder Pass, but jump to the ridge directly from behind Section House.

Wildflowers encroaching on the trail
While short, this trail is still at altitude and after being gone from Summit County for several weeks, I found myself sucking wind as I approached 12,000 ft. Still, if you take your time, even folks with moderate levels of fitness should be able to make the pass. The view down the backside is well worth the effort. If you are a fit local, there is now excuse not to pop up to the left ridge for an ascent of Bald Mountain.


Margie said...

I so love Colorado!
Wonderful photos here.

sylvia murphy said...

Thanks Margie,
It hard not to take decent photos in Colorado. It is lovely everywhere you look!

Linda W. said...

Wow, looks like a great hike! Thanks for sharing your photos.

sylvia murphy said...

Thanks Linda. It really was stunning. Tomorrow I am going to try and climb Mt. Lincoln. I much bigger adventure.

KT said...

Your CO trail documents always make me kick myself and ask what are we still doing in IL!

sylvia murphy said...

Don't ask...MOVE!!!

Jerry said...

A couple comments. On Saturday, August 1, 2015 the bathroom at the trailhead was not available. Don't know if this is a new development, but it was all padlocked. I think I misread the note originally as we were thinking the section house and trailhead were at 9.2 miles, but by our odometer it was exactly 10.0 from the turn off of Main Street. Given we were worried we were perhaps on the wrong road, that extra .8miles had us a little worried.

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