Hiking in Summit County: Eccles Pass

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

Standing on a pass in Colorado can make you truly appreciate our state’s amazing beauty and vast space. Pass hikers typically walk through a beautiful valley, climb above treeline, hike to the top of a pass and are suddenly greeted by yet another amazing valley waiting to be discovered. Eccles Pass is a great choice for someone looking for that “ah-ha” moment.

The hike starts next to Interstate 70 in the Frisco/Silverthorne area. A sign at the trailhead doesn’t even say Eccles Pass. It simply says, “Meadow Creek 331.” But this is no simple hike. The climb starts right away. In the first half mile or so, you’ll gain 500 feet of elevation. One way to ease the pain? Come in the fall. The first half mile of the trail is lined with Aspens that put on a colorful show in mid-September. Stop and take lots of pictures to ease the pain of that initial elevation gain.

About .55 miles from the trailhead is a trail split. A sign tells hikers Lilypad Lake is to the right, but continue up, into the lodgepole pine forest to head for the pass. This section of trail is an old Jeep road, so it’s plenty wide to chat with friends as you hike.

1.35 miles from the trailhead, you may notice the sound of a creek. That’s Meadow Creek, the creek the trail was named for. Soak up the sound of the water, because it comes in short bursts along the trail. The trail crosses the creek and continues its climb up the valley that you really can’t quite see yet because of the thick forest.

At 3 miles, the place with the first distant mountain views, you’ll have climbed about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, but there’s still another 1,000 to go over the next 2 miles.

Suddenly, about four miles into the hike, there’s another stream crossing and you’ll leave the trees for the last time and come into a meadow that appears to stretch all the way to the pass. There’s another 600 feet of climbing to go, but first you’ll walk across this meadow enjoying the vistas of the surrounding peaks. After hiking toward one mountain for much of the hike, suddenly you’ll find yourself pointed to a saddle on the right. That’s Eccles Pass up there. Just a short distance away, the Meadow Creek Trail ends and you’re suddenly on the Gore Range Trail. The Gore Range Trail climbs the pass and after that last bit of hard climbing – there it is – the top. As you crest the saddle, wait until you see the amazing view awaiting you on the other side. Drink it in, but don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the amazing valley you just hiked up. Bring lunch, and leave yourself some time to just sit here at the top and enjoy this marvelous place.

When you’re ready for more, you can continue on to Red Buffalo Pass, maybe loop around Buffalo Mountain back to the Meadow Creek Trailhead or just return the way you came.

Details: The hike to the top of Eccles Pass and back is about 10.25 miles with 2,900 feet of elevation gain.

Directions: From Interstate 70, take exit 203/Frisco. Drive half way around the traffic circle to a dirt road on the west side of the roundabout. Take the dirt road a half mile to the trailhead. The trailhead has signs, but no bathrooms or trash cans.

Get more hiking ideas in Colorado and through the west here.