Boreas Mountain stands high above the mountain town of Breckenridge
on the edge of the Front Range. Its interesting summit sees few visitors, despite being a short hike from the popular Boreas Pass summit. Boreas is near its higher neighbor, Bald Mountain
. The top of Boreas Mountain is a great place to view the might of the Tenmile and Mosquito Ranges and parts of the Front Range. It's a sure bet for solitude in any month.
, in Greek mythology, was the god of the North Winds. Boreas was pictured as bearded, powerful, and winged and draped against the cold. The word Boreas is also a synonym for North Winds.
Boreas Mountain has no trail, but it is no harder than Class 2 to gain its summit. It's also a pretty short hike of 1.5 miles to the summit from Boreas Pass. This mountain is a great choice if you are cramped for time, for an acclimatization hike, or if you just want to get a little solitude up high. The summit register on Boreas Mountain has been there since 1999, and isn't even half full.
History of Boreas Pass and the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad
Boreas Pass used to be known as Breckenridge Pass when the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad used to travel through it. Boreas Pass Summit has some remains of one of the most important developments in the mining history of Breckenridge, namely the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad. Few events in the history of Summit County carry more importance than the 1882 arrival of the railroad. The DSP&P originated in Denver but began its long and tortuous climb to Breckenridge from the town of Como in South Park.
Today, visitors can see several reconstructed buildings similar to those which occupied what then was known as Breckenridge Pass. The railroad men who built the line renamed the pass "Boreas" after the Greek god of the north wind. A section house, engine house, telegraph house, coal storage facility, 9000-gallon water tank, engine turntable, and other buildings were located atop the pass, the second highest (11,493 ft.) railroad station in the world at the time.
The largest building standing today, on the northern side of the road, is the Section House which was the headquarters for the crew which maintained and managed the track into Breckenridge. Today, the Summit Huts Association maintains the Section House as a ski-in camping facility in the winter and staffs the House with a guide in the summer to assist visitors at the site. Careful inspection of the fields on the south side of the road, across from the Section House, will reveal the remains of the engine house, built in 1883 and burned to the ground in 1909. Around 1885, a 600-ft. snow shed was built over the summit as well to shelter the trains from the fierce winter storms and to maintain a track clear of snow. This shed also burned to the ground, in 1899. It was replaced with a shed nearly 1000 feet long the same year. Eventually, the snow shed idea was abandoned, since the sheds were very expensive to maintain and had a habit of burning down very easily as coal-burning, smoke-belching locomotives passed through the sheds. The last big snow shed burned down in 1934.
Service over the pass to Breckenridge was discontinued in 1936 but not before probably thousands of tons of mining equipment and supplies, thousands of passengers, and probably thousands of tons of mined products made their way to and from the mining camps in and around Breckenridge. It was no coincidence that the "hardrock" mining boom - the use of underground mining techniques to recover gold, silver, lead, and zinc - really began in the early 1880s. Only the railroad could haul the very heavy and bulky machinery needed to build the mines and smelters of this era, could bring in supplies to "feed" the mines and mining camps, and could haul the bounty recovered from the ground to smelters east of the Rockies, in Denver and other points east.
for more information about the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad.
Denver, South Park, and Pacific - Baker's Tank - Boreas Pass - 1884 - Ted Kiercsey Collection
Go to Narrowgauge.org for more photos from the Ted Kiercsey Collection.
The water tank visible in this photo has been restored and now stands along the Boreas Pass road as you drive from Breckenridge.
The summit of Boreas MountainBoreas Pass Trailhead
From the town of Breckenridge, drive to the south side of town. Near the Conoco station, turn East onto the Boreas Pass Road. It is well marked.
Drive 3.5 miles to an obvious parking area where the road turns to dirt. This is the site of the Winter closure. The Boreas Pass Road closes the first Monday of November, and typically re-opens in mid to late Spring.
If the gate is open, you can drive 6 more miles to the summit of Boreas Pass. This dirt road is well maintained, and is accessible by 2WD vehicles when it is dry. If the road is wet or snowy, you will want 4WD. There is ample parking at the Boreas Pass summit.
There is no Red Tape for Boreas Mountain.
When To Climb
Boreas can be climbed year-round. With a Winter road closure, add 12 miles (round trip) to your day.
There are two huts at the summit of Boreas Pass. Section House
, which can hold many visitors, and Ken's Hut
, which is for smaller parties. Both are 10th Mountain Association Huts
. Using either of these huts would be a great option for Winter exploration of this area.
Informal camping is available in the Pike National Forest.
Boreas Mountain is within the Pike National Forest.
South Park Ranger District
320 Hwy. 285
Fairplay, Colorado 80440
As always, be observant of avalanche danger during Winter and Spring. Visit the Colorado Avalanche information Center's Website
for current information.
Click here for a high altitude NOAA forecast.