A view to hike for: Hahn’s Peak worth the effort
July 25, 2013
Hahn’s Peak — Hahn's Peak is a bucket-list kind of mountain.
Sure, there are taller mountains in Routt County. Nearby Sand Mountain, for instance, rises about 10 feet higher than Hahn's Peak's 10,839.
Mount Werner is much more famous.
The county's tallest mountain, Mount Zirkel, is buried deep in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, and even that peak lacks something that Hahn's Peak has.
Hahn's Peak is what a mountain should look like. It's a pyramid with a bare, gray top. It juts high into the sky, and it towers over the northern part of the county.
It's not known as the most difficult hike in Routt County, but it's still one of the signature accomplishments, and on Saturday, the trail to the top was bustling with hikers of all ages and abilities, people pushing to the summit of one of the region's most iconic mountains.
Hahn's Peak was an active volcano eons ago, and its slopes are among the most interesting in Routt County's more recent history, too. It was one of the first places settlers landed when the region began to open up. Gold was the draw, and in 1862, German immigrant Joseph Hahn found traces of the element in a nearby creek.
By 1866, he had helped establish a larger operation in the area, but many of the men left for the winter, and he and a fellow miner trusted all the gold they'd found to a third man who was to return with supplies for mining and for surviving the winter.
He didn't return.
Two years later, the men abandoned their camp, and Hahn died as they attempted to hike out of the area in April 1867.
For all his trouble, he did get the mountain — after others stumbled across the abandoned camp, found gold and triggered a rush — and the town named after him.
Hahn's Peak became a mining boom town by the early 1870s and became the official county seat for Routt County in 1876 until Steamboat Springs took the honor in 1912.
The town shrank, but the area still is popular for summer and winter recreation and is home to some of the county's hardiest souls.
Journey to the top
Some background information makes the hike all the more interesting and impressive.
People used to hike these steep slopes lugging heavy equipment? Yikes.
To get to the trailhead, head north on Colorado Highway 129 out of Steamboat Springs (a total of 29 miles) and pass through Clark and then underneath the peak as Steamboat Lake flies by on your left and the small village of Hahn's Peak on your right.
The summit looks awfully intimidating from the road, but don't worry: The backside is steep, but it's more reasonable than the picturesque front.
Continue 4.6 miles past the village and turn right onto Forest Service Road 490 directly across the highway from the small Columbine General Store and the collection of cabins built there. There's a major fork in the road about 0.9 miles in. Hang left, staying on 490 for about another 0.4 miles. There, turn left onto Forest Service Road 418 for about 150 yards until you hit a parking lot.
The trail, No. 1158, is conveniently marked "Hahn's Peak Trail" and really is a wide Jeep road for the first three-quarters of a mile. The trail then hangs a hard right onto more of a singletrack trail and begins the climb toward the summit in earnest.
It's not a long hike, less than 4 miles round trip, and the amount of children who make it to the top make it seem deceivingly easy. Some of sections of the trail are as steep or steeper than any of the most popular trails in the region.
The trail gets more complicated once the summit comes into focus. The final stretch of the hike is dominated by loose rock that's annoying going up and a twisted ankle waiting to happen on the way down.
See for miles and miles
The payoff makes the challenge worth it.
Routt County views don't come much more vast and uninterrupted than that available from atop Hahn's Peak. A 360-degree panorama awaits. Boats can be seen zipping around Steamboat Lake, far below, and the ski trails of Steamboat Ski Area are visible in the distance. The towering peaks of the Zirkel Wilderness Area jut up to the east, and Wyoming is clearly visible about a dozen miles to the north.
It's not Routt County's easiest trail — less than 4 miles but taking a little more than three hours — and it's not the area's longest. But standing atop one of the most beautiful peaks in the region makes Hahn's Peak a must-do for locals, and a worthy challenge for visitors.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com