Quail Mountain, another huge hump of talus in the Sawatch Range, is one of Colorado's 300-highest peaks--somewhere around #282, depending on which list you use. The mountain consists of gentle slopes, and provides stellar views of much of the Sawatch Range, especially neighboring Mount Hope, one of Colorado's "Centennial Thirteeners." It is most often approached via the west slopes, from north or south, and the mountain is often climbed in conjunction with Mount Hope.
These western slopes are surprisingly steep, and the 900 vertical feet and 0.6 mile from Hope Pass had me stopping numerous times to catch my breath. For more information on this route, see the West Slopes Route page.
At the summit, there are two old and decrepit cabins, which I assume are buildings from the mining era. This summit provides a splendid position amongst numerous high peaks of the Sawatch, and it is well worth the visit.
SP member jimmyjay gave me this interesting information: Quail Mountain came very close to becoming a ski resort. A base village and several lifts were proposed from the 9400' level to the 11800' level on the NE slope and with a north ridge potential of 4000' vertical - which would have made it one of the largest in the state (Snowmass hadn't surpassed the 4k mark yet). Millions were poured into it in the 1980s. What saved it was the snow study which showed that it received 1/2 the snow of nearby Copper and 1/3 the snow of nearby Vail.
Today, except for the decrepit cabins at the summit, the mountain is as pristine as ever. Mountain goats abound on these slopes, and mule deer and elk aplenty are just below, in the valleys. Ptarmigan (and quail???) are also prevalant in this area.
Quail Mountain and Mount Hope from the North (Photo by mountwashingtonmonroe)
From the South: Go 9.3 miles west on Chaffee County 390, a dirt road accessible from U.S. 24. To find Chaffee County 390, go 14.9 miles north from the center of Buena Vista, or 4.3 miles south of where Colorado 82 leaves U.S 24.
At 9.3 miles west, you will pass two large beaver ponds. This one is right next to the road. There is a small turn in the road here, and on the north side of the road a 4-wheel drive road turns uphill. There is a small post at the junction of this road, but no sign.
Park at the junction, or, if you have a 4WD you can continue up the 4WD road for 0.2 mile to the Hope Pass Trailhead. This is your starting point.
From the North: The Willis Gulch Trailhead can be accessed from Colorado 82, 8.4 miles west of U.S. 24 and 15.3 miles east of Independence Pass. To get to the TH, turn south onto a dirt road and follow it 100 yards. There is plenty of parking here.
TRAILHEAD CHANGE: Per harrise (7/4/2011), The Parry Peak Campground has signage at the end of saying the trailhead is located 1/4 mile east on HWY 82. There are two dirt pull offs that fit maybe six cars each. Just under these is the bridge across Lake Creek taking you to the trails.
All distances per Gerry Roach.
Red Tape & Other Considerations
At the summit, storms roll in
There are currently no permits for hiking or camping required here, and there are plenty of camping spots along Chaffee County 390 and in the Twin Lakes area along Colorado 82.
As is the case with most mountains in Colorado, the summer months provide the best conditions for climbing Quail Mountain. Use caution in other months--Hope Pass is often unreachable due to snow and avalanche conditions. I climbed Quail Mountain in mid-May, and was only able to do so via the summit of Mount Hope and Hope Pass. Though the west slopes of Quail Mountain were almost entirely bare, I was unable to get to Hope Pass via the standard Hope Pass Trail because of the avalanche danger. It looked like the approach from the north, though longer, would have been safe at this time of year. However, every year is different, and in addition to weather forecasts, any prospective hiker should check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center's website for current conditions before venturing out to the mountains in the winter and spring months.
For a ten-day forecast and current conditions of the Twin Lakes area, directly from the NOAA web site, Click Here. Remember weather conditions can change rapidly above timberline. Always be prepared!