Overland’s Best Day Hikes: Crystal Peak near Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado, has some beautiful day hikes. If you’re headed to Breckenridge, and want to get out on a day hike, then read on!

A day hike in the Rockies in the summer is just about the perfect way to spend a day outdoors. The Crystal Peak Day Hike described in this post starts at the Spruce Creek Trailhead and goes only as far as the saddle below the peak. This is the part of the hike that will appeal to the widest possible audience (beyond the saddle the hike becomes significantly more challenging).

First-Hand Account of the Crystal Peak Day Hike by Overland Leader Allie Braun, Summer 2023

My favorite hike in Colorado, hands down, is Overland’s Rocky Mountain Explorer challenge hike: The Crystal Peak Day Hike.

The trailhead for the Crystal Peak Day Hike is about a 15-minute drive outside Breckenridge, Colorado, a picturesque gold rush town. Breckenridge is about two hours west of Denver.

The trailhead starts and ends at the Spruce Creek Trailhead. Crystal Peak is part of the Tenmile Range, so the hike is strenuous, regardless of hiking experience and age. I would rate Crystal Peak as challenging since it is a 9-mile roundtrip with about 3,650 feet of elevation gain. 

The hike starts with the trail to the saddle’s most challenging part: a steep dirt road / jeep track for about a mile over rocky terrain. The scenery, however, is outstanding. Once you rise above tree line after the initial uphill section there is a stunning 360-degree view of Crystal Peak, Peak One, and Crystal Lake (and if you’re lucky, you might even see some moose or mountain goats!).

Importantly, one should be cautious about continuing past the saddle to the peak. Without the right equipment and experience, the hike to the peak is too dangerous for most day hikers, with loose rocks and a lack of a clearly visible trail. It is prudent to stop at the saddle, which offers equally impressive views. 

I love this hike, especially as a sunrise hike. The rising sun illuminating the trees, lakes, and mountains on your way up is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On our Rocky Mountain Explorer trips, Crystal Peak was often the favorite hike of the whole trip. Despite the trail’s difficulty, the feeling of accomplishment at reaching the saddle was a real high for most students. It gave the group a sense of teamwork, determination, and inspiration. A memorable experience for me was watching our third Rocky Mountain Explorer group share a group hug at the top, congratulating one another, and commenting on how much of an accomplishment this hike was for them. Crystal Peak will always have a place in my heart. It was perfect for the Overland leaders and our students. And this hike has an additional bonus: spending the rest of the day exploring the lovely town of Breckenridge, Colorado!

Crystal Peak Day Hike Information At-A-Glance

  • Where: Near Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Distance: Approximately 9 Miles Round Trip
  • Duration: About 5 Hours (without stops)
  • Elevation Gain: Just about 3,650 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging
  • Popularity: High
  • Trailhead: Spruce Creek Trailhead

Crystal Peak Day Hike Route Highlights:

  • Picturesque 360-degree views of the Tenmile Range once you reach the summit.
  • An opportunity to hike along two Alpine lakes, Upper and Lower Crystal Lake. 
  • A chance to see a Colorado Mountain Hut, Francie’s Cabin, established in 1994, a great hut for beginners and families, at 11,360 feet.

Route Description

The Crystal Peak Day Hike near Breckenridge, Colorado, starts at the Spruce Creek trailhead. The first mile or so of the trail is below tree line. About a mile in there is a turnoff for Francie’s Cabin; Crystal Peak will soon come into view. After another mile, you’ll reach Lower Crystal Lake. At just below 13,000 feet there is a steep cutoff to the saddle. 

Helpful Basics

  1. Nearest town: Breckenridge, Colorado (about fifteen minutes by car from the Spruce Creek Trailhead—see below).
  2. Distance from Denver International Airport to Breckenridge: Usually about two hours, but can vary +/- thirty minutes (or more) due to traffic on I-70.
  3. Estimated time roundtrip: about five hours. This time estimate does not include stops for water, snacks, rest, views, or lunch.
  4. Starting elevation: Just about 10,000 feet
  5. Elevation gain to the saddle: Approximately 3,650 feet
  6. Tree Line: The trail starts below the tree line, but soon pushes beyond it.

Trailhead Information

The Spruce Creek Trailhead is located a short drive (about fifteen minutes) from the center of Breckenridge, Colorado.

Additional Resources

There are (at least) two variations of this hike on the AllTrails site—check out: 

The Hiking Project has a description of the Crystal Peak day hike all the way to the peak: 

Overland Trip Leader Profile: Allie Braun

Raised in Missoula, Montana, Allie embarked on backpacking, canoeing, and kayaking trips every summer in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. She now calls the Pacific Northwest home, where she is a rising junior at the University of Oregon in Eugene (Go, Ducks!). Allie is working towards a Fine Arts degree with a minor in Environmental Studies. Allie is an accomplished debater (she’s a four-time first-place winner in CARD Debate for the University of Oregon’s Forensics team), a volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club, and an After-School Sports Program team leader in Willamette. Allie is certified in Leave No Trace practices and she is a Wilderness First Responder. When Allie is not studying, debating or volunteering, she is an avid climber, hiker, writer, and painter.

In 2022, Allie was on Overland’s Field Staff: she led a New England Adventure trip, and a portion of Maine Coast Explorer. In 2023 Allie led Rocky Mountain Explorer. She’s headed to Norway in 2024 to lead Norway Explorer.

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    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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