Navigating boulders, NE ridge of Coon Hill
This great car shuttle route takes in 3-4 summits (depending on your attentiveness…UN 12858 was easy for us to skip by mistake) and serves up non-stop, wide-open views above timberline almost the entire way. The going is nearly entirely off-trail, but clear line-of-site makes navigation a snap. Enjoy some surprisingly fun (if loose) scrambling on the ridgeline to the summit of Coon Hill, and get an unusual view of the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel operations. The route shadows the Continental Divide much of the way and carries you over a tunneled portion of I-70 (Eisenhower Tunnel) along the upper reaches of the Loveland Ski area.
Summits enjoyed on this route:
• UN 12858 (We accidentally skipped this in our early-morning stupor and it is not covered on the trail map provided on this page, but is an easy side-trip from the parking lot. Learn more about the peak on this SP page
• UN 12752
• “Golden Bear Peak” 13,010 feet
• Coon Hill 12,757 feet
11,991 (Loveland Pass)
3 max on ridge to Coon Hill
Hager, Citadel, Pettingill "The Citadel" and Pettingel Peak
"Golden Bear" summit views
LOVELAND PASS (One of your Vehicles)
From the East:
Drive west on Interstate 70. As you approach the Eisenhower Tunnel, take the exit for Loveland Pass. The exit channels you under the highway. Go right and take Highway 6 past the Loveland Ski Area and follow the road to the top of Loveland Pass and park.
From the West:
Take I-70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Just beyond the tunnel, take the Loveland Pass exit, make a hard right, passing the Loveland Ski Area entrance and go to the top of Loveland Pass and park. You can also take Highway 6 from Dillon through Keystone resort to the top of Loveland Pass.
Eisenhower Tunnel Parking (Other Vehicle)
From the West:
Take I-70 west through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Be in the right-hand lane. Almost immediately after exiting the tunnel, turn right into the parking area.
Note: To drive from the Eisenhower Tunnel parking to the Loveland Pass parking, it is not necessary to re-enter I-70. Simply drive behind the tunnel structure to the east of the parking area and drive up and over the tunnel to re-connect to US Hwy 6. This option may / may not be available depending on security situations. At worst, you’ll need to continue westbound on I-70 from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Silverthorne where you can pull a u-turn to re-enter I-70 eastbound to the Loveland Pass US Hwy 6 exit.
Starting the day Toward UN 12752 Nearing the summit of UN 12752
• Head out on-trail from Loveland Pass parking and head uphill toward UN 12858. A rough trail ascends most of the way to the summit of this peak.
• Strike out cross-country on ridgeline toward UN 12752. Ascend point 12,479. From this point, descend some scree and talus (sometimes loose, but not particularly steep nor treacherous), then ascend UN 12,752. Just below the summit ridge the going is steep but easy, mostly on tundra. The last stroll along the summit plateau to the top is easy-going across mostly level tundra.
Last push up UN 12752 UN 12752 final summit stroll UN 12752 USGS summit marker
• Descend UN 12,752 and cross the upper reaches of Loveland Ski Area, heading first northwest toward point 12,701. Along this stretch, you can get up close and personal with ski lift equipment, but please keep your distance and do not interfere with any ski operations.
• The Continental Divide then trends north-northeast and the route crosses four lanes of Interstate hidden below in the Eisenhower Tunnel. The ridge here is broad and the walk is easy-going.
Descending UN 12752 NW along Continental Divide Behind Loveland Ski Area
• Now it is time to ascend the only Thirteener on this route! The ridge-walk to “Golden Bear” is easy and while there are a few rocks and boulders to navigate to reach the summit of this peak, the going should not exceed rugged Class 2.
Toward "Golden Bear" Almost to "Golden Bear" summit "Golden Bear" summit marker
• Leave behind the amazing views from the summit of “Golden Bear” and head southwest toward saddle with Coon Hill. Initially, the descent from “Golden Bear” is more easy-going tundra. Toward the saddle with Coon Hill, a few rock obstacles make themselves known, but they are easy to navigate around.
Descending "Golden Bear" Toward Coon Hill Easy section of ridge to Coon Hill
• As you get closer to Coon Hill, however, rejoice: At last, from this point, things get thankfully more interesting! Roughly mid-way between “Golden Bear” and Coon Hill, the scrambling finally begins.
Scrambling begins Finally fun Critter jaw Up a gully
• Work your way southwest toward the summit of Coon Hill. We followed the general trend of the ridge, but stayed to the southeast of the actual ridgeline in most cases. You will find yourself scrambling on often loose junk and big blocks, but the exposure is mostly minimal.
• Very near the summit, the route crosses the last of the loose terrain and swings in an almost directly western trajectory toward the summit. Ascend the last bit of mixed rock and tundra to the top of Coon Hill.
Rounding a corner Last Coon Hill Push Last Coon Hill steps Back down Coon Hill ridgef
• From the summit of Coon Hill, simply descend the broad southeast ridge initially, then trudge down mostly smooth east-facing slopes into the basin. Avoid the worst of the swampy sub-alpine meadows, and outhike down the basin back to car parked near tunnel.
Coon Hill summit marker Coon Hill summit Coon Hill summit views
• Reminder: Before heading to Tommy Knockers to kick back some cold brews, don’t forget to pick up the vehicle left up in Loveland Pass!
Returning to the tunnel Descending Coon Hill
• Outerwear appropriate to the season: This is a long ridge run almost entirely above timberline, be prepared for the worst Mother Nature can throw at you!
• Map, compass & GPS
• Colorado Gazetteer or other basic road atlas for road navigation
• Flotation in snow season plus an ax for navigating slopes