The Perfect Day Trip

Need a quick escape? Ute Peak is an easy ramble just off of I-70.

Part of the lightly traveled Williams Fork Mountains, a subgroup of the Front Range, 12,303-foot-high Ute Peak provides the perfect day target from Denver. These rolling summits frame the north side of I-70 on the west side of the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel before curling north. Despite easy access and maintained trails the Williams Fork peaks tend to be overlooked. A visit to Ute Peak is the perfect way to acquaint hikers to this semi-secret, but oh-so-accessible, destination.

The trailhead is only about an hour and 20 minutes from downtown. The lot at the top of the pass has plenty of space to park—though don’t be surprised if yours is the only vehicle there. Once on the Ute Peak Trail, you meander through meadows and forests that feel more like Vermont than Colorado. Early June is a great time to explore the area, as most of the snow that can disguise the trail will have melted away and mountain wildflowers are beginning to bloom. The first 3.5 miles of the trail stays in the shady woods; expect the occasional downed beetle-kill tree.

Right when it’s starting to feel repetitive, the trail breaks treeline to some of the most spectacular alpine tundra views in the state. Several sub-summits roll along the way to Ute Peak, but it’s the majestic views of the jagged, foreboding Gore Range mountains that steal the show. Views of nearby Front Range and Tenmile Range Peaks are equally impressive. After lounging on the grassy summit knob, retrace your steps.

Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 13 miles to the intersection with Ute Pass Road (CR 15). Climb Ute Pass Road 5.2 miles to the top of the pass where there is a large parking area on the right side of the road. The signed Ute Peak Trail starts to the south across an open grassy field. There are no fees to park or hike to Ute Peak.

—James Dziezynski

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