Mohawk Lakes to Crystal Peak Ridge

A couple of weeks ago my friend Andrea came over from Carbondale to spend the day hiking with me. Andrea is definitely one of my more ambitious friends when it comes to having adventures, so I put some thought into where to take her around Breckenridge. I settled on Mohawk Lakes, which is about four miles South of Breckenridge. Mohawk Lakes is one of those classic hikes that’s always good for impressing friends from out of town. It’s incredibly beautiful and if you start at the upper trailhead, most of the hike is at or above treeline, which lets you capitalize on the breathtaking views. I always make a point to visit Mohawk at least once every summer. However, until Andrea came to visit, I had only been up to the 4th lake (there are 6-7, depending on which ones you count). In the summer, thunderstorms are always threatening overhead and you often get chased out before you make it as far as you’d like. So it was really nice to hike it in October, when there was no chance of a storm and we had abundant sunshine all day.

We drove up the 4WD road to the upper trailhead so we be could we sure we’d have enough daylight to make it to all the lakes and so we’d actually have time to enjoy them. We started at about 11:30, which is a super leisurely start time compared to when you need to start in the summer to avoid storms.

We quickly made it up to Lower Mohawk Lake, where Andrea’s new dog Chancey enjoyed chasing a stick into the water. He didn’t seem alarmed that the water was probably about 34 degrees and there was a thin layer of ice on top that he had to break through:

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Unfortunately since I’ve been to Mohawk so many times, I didn’t think to take any pictures from the first lake to the sixth lake (I didn’t exactly have blogging on my mind at the time!). So here’s an overview of our route – I didn’t GPS our hike, but here’s a rough idea of the route we took up the valley (click to enlarge):

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As you can see, we not only made it to the top lake, but we hiked beyond our goal and up to the ridge between Crystal Peak (13,852′) and Pacific Peak (13,950′). I did manage to at least make a waypoint on the GPS app on my phone, and we topped out at about 13,475′.

Here are some pictures from the top lake up to the ridge:

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The spectacular lake at the top of the valley.

 

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Me climbing up to the ridge from the top lake.

 

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Looking South from our spot on the ridge to Pacific Peak (13,950')
Looking South from our spot on the ridge to Pacific Peak (13,950′)

 

Andrea and me taking a quick break at the top.
Andrea and me taking a quick break at the top.

 

View from the ridge to the West.
View from the ridge to the West.

One of the really cool things about our decision to hike to the ridge was the views it allowed us up top. I always knew what was on the other side of the ridge, but to see it from that perspective was rewarding for me. One of the things you can see in this shot is a bit of Mayflower Gulch (the ridge/gulch with all the pine trees), which is one of my favorite places to backcountry ski. You can’t see it in this shot, but from this point you can also see bits of Copper Mountain Resort, which is probably my favorite local ski area.

If we’d had more daylight left, we could’ve easily summited Crystal Peak, but Chancey was a little nervous and we knew we needed to take our time heading down the loose rocks off the ridgeline.

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It’s hard for any photo to depict how steep this was and how much of an elevation change there was (about 1,100′). The descent back to solid ground took about an hour, and by the time we got back to the top lake we were in the shadow of Pacific Peak. Here’s a shot looking back at Pacific:

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We made it back to the trailhead at about 6:00, just in time to head home for some well-deserved pasta and wine! It was a super fun day…now I want to hike Pacific! Thanks to Andrea for coming over to Breck and for also letting me use her photos in this post!