Chief Mountain is a long, east-to-west trending peak with four points above 11,000 feet, the highest of which rises at the far west-northwestern end of the ridge. It sits just west of the town of Frisco, Colorado, near the Dillon Reservoir. It’s an exceedingly accessible peak, with I-70 roaring along to the east, and is flanked by trails to its north, west and south, though it has no formal trail to the summit.
Views from the broad summit ridge include close-ups of Gore Range neighbors as well as numerous 12ers, 13ers and 14ers in the Tenmile Range and Front Range. From the eastern slopes, the eyes take in broad views of the Dillon Reservoir.
Prominence: 197 feet
USGS Quad: Vail Pass
Trails Illustrated Map: Trails Illustrated #108 (Vail, Frisco, Dillon)
Rank and Prominence Source: Lists of John
Chief Mountain sits in Summit County, immediately west of Frisco, Colorado, just off I-70. The nearest major airport is the Denver International Airport (DEN) which is roughly 2 hours / 100 miles away by road. Chief Mountain is served by two trails, the Meadow Creek Trail and the North Tenmile Trail.
• There is no fee to use this area and no fee to park (though parking may fill up on weekends).
• Most of this route passes through the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Per the National Forest Service, the following regulations govern your use of this 133,000 acre wilderness:
The following acts are prohibited on National Forest System land within the Eagles Nest Wilderness.
1. Entering or being in the area with more than 15 people per group, with a maximum combination of 25 people and pack or saddle animals in any one group.
2. Camping within one hundred feet of all lakes, streams, trails and any “No Camping” or “Wilderness Restoration Site” signs.
3. Building, maintaining, attending or using a campfire within one hundred feet of all lakes, streams and trails or within ¼ mile of tree line and within ¼ miles of all lakes.
4. Storing or leaving equipment, personal property or supplies for longer than 72 hours.
5. Hitching or tethering any pack or saddle animal within one hundred feet of all lakes, streams and trails.
6. Possessing a dog, except working stock dogs or dogs used for legal hunting purposes, unless under physical restraint of a leash not to exceed six feet i n length.
7. Possessing, storing or transporting any plant material such as hay or straw. NOTE: Exceptions are allowed for livestock feed that has been processed through chemical or mechanical means in a manner that will destroy viable seeds. Examples of allowed material include: pelletized feed and rolled grains.
8. Possessing or using a wagon, cart, wheelbarrow, or other vehicle including game carts.
9. Shortcutting a switchback in a trail.
Camping & Lodging
There are nearly 350 campsites in the Dillon Reservoir area. Most of them are closed from early September through mid May. Below are five “east shore” campgrounds operated by the National Forest Service.
|Lowry Campground||Site has 24 camp sites at 9,388' elevation. Amenities: Vault toilets, water and garbage service. Fees are $16 per night, plus an additional $5 for an electric site.|
|Prospecter Campground||Site has 106 camp sites at 9,117' elevation. Amenities: Vault toilets, water and garbage services. Fees are $16 per night.|
|Peak One Campground||Site has 79 camp sites at 9,050' elevation. Fees are $17 per night. Amenities: Vault toilets, water and garbage service.|
|Pine Grove Campground||Site has 33 camp sites at 9,062' elevation. Fees are $15 per night, plus an additional $5 for an electric site. Amenities: Vault toilets, water and garbage service.|
|Windy Point Campground||Windy Point is available for group camping only and reservations are required (877.444.6777).|
HOTELS, LODGES & CONDOS
Lodging options are almost unlimited in nearby Frisco, Silverthorne & Dillon, plus the Breckenridge and Keystone resort areas.
Weather & Seasons
Winter & Spring: While approach trails should be well-packed thanks to heavy local traffic, expect deep snow drifts and plenty of wallowing in the trees after leaving the trail. Do not visit this area in times of high avalanche risk, and exercise caution to stay on low-angle terrain if ascending/descending the northeast slope.
Summer: Chief Mountain’s elevation may provide some respite from the heat and the wildflowers in the meadow are delightful, but the crowds may be a bit much to bear and parking will be tight.
Fall: Aspen on the lower reaches along with rich autumn colors of the sub-tundra on the summit area of Chief Mountain would make this a delightful peak to visit in the cool, crisp air of fall.