OverviewThe route is a loop hike to Independence Mountain B 12,614’ and Bear Mountain 12,582’. It is best done in a counter-clockwise direction as the steepest part is the ascent from Hunki Dori mine to Independence Mountain. For those with boundless energy, the route could be extended to include Keystone Mountain and perhaps others in the area.
Length = 8.1 miles
Elevation gain = 2800’
Loop portion rejoins at N39 34.818 W105 52.484
Getting ThereTake Exit 205 for CO 9 / US 6 off of I-70. Take US 6 towards to the town of Keystone and continue past Keystone to Montezuma Road (CO Rd 5). Turn right on Montezuma Road and go 5.3 miles to Saints John Road, which is in the town of Montezuma. Turn right on Saints John Road, go approximately .3 mile up the road and park in a space on the right where the road bends to the left. In the summer there may be other parking spaces available farther up the road. In the winter this road is closed completely, and the town of Montezuma has posted “no parking” signs around this portion of Saints John Road. It may be necessary to go back down Montezuma Road about .9 mile and park at the Peru Creek trailhead, which would add another 1.8 miles to the hike.
Route DescriptionHead up Saints John Road, watching for another road/trail that splits off to the right. Depending on where you started, the distance to this point will vary; however, it is approximately .5 mile from the intersection of Montezuma Road and Saints John Road. The trail heads downhill to the right and goes through a wet area that you should be able to cross on a dam. Follow this road for 2.5 miles as it curves around the mountainside and loses, then regains elevation. At the end of this trail is a rusty old truck and a building. This is the Hunki Dori mine and in winter is a popular cross-country ski destination.
At this point you have a choice. You can traverse north at your current elevation to the bottom of the ridge, then head WSW uphill. An alternative is to head WNW directly up the steep hill. Do not get too far to the west, as the hill becomes very steep in that direction.
Once you gain the ridge, follow it to the southwest. As you leave the trees, the climb becomes rocky above treeline. Attain and enjoy the summit of Independence Mountain!
When you are ready, head south and down to the Independence Mountain – Bear Mountain saddle. This area borders the Keystone ski area and there is a string of signs along the west side of your route. Once in the saddle, ascend the quick 300 feet up Bear Mountain to the east. At the top, make another turn to the south and descend to a saddle above the Saints John Creek drainage.
In late autumn/early winter, the safest place to descend was found to be just SW of the lowest part of the saddle. However, be aware of avalanche hazard in this area! Drop into the drainage in an ESE direction and cross the creek in the willow area above the trees (about 11,400’). Follow along the SE side of the creek until the trail turns into a road, then follow the road back down to your vehicle.
Essential GearPortions of this route are on ridges above treeline, so wind protection is recommended.
When snow is present, snowshoes are needed and an ice ax may be helpful.