This 12,804-foot peak looms over the town of Telluride and Bear Creek Canyon. The old mining route up to its summit was restored by local mountaineering legend Chuck Kroger before he passed away from pancreatic cancer on Christmas Day, 2007.
This 12,804-foot peak looms over the town of Telluride and Bear Creek Canyon. The old mining route up to its summit was restored by local mountaineering legend Chuck Kroger before he passed away from pancreatic cancer on Christmas Day, 2007. Because the trail is unmarked and relentlessly steep, it gets very little use, especially given its proximity to town. The 360-degree views at the top of nearby waterfalls, alpine lakes, snowy basins, and craggy mountain ridgelines are jaw dropping.
What Makes It Great
Begin your hike on the Bear Creek Trail at the south end of Pine Street. As you walk up the trail, keep an eye out for unmarked singletrack trails breaking off to your left. You’ll pass a couple other deer trails before coming to one that snakes left through the first large clearing in the woods—about three quarters of a mile in. This is the Ballard Mountain Trail.
Take it and quickly arrive at a double-log bridge across the creek. Cross the bridge. There are several unmarked forks in the trail, but continue to follow the main trail south and upstream. The route—an initially mellow jaunt through the woods—can be overgrown with tall grass, ferns, and stinging nettles in places (a lightweight pair of pants for this stretch may be welcome here!), but generally easy to follow as it begins to climb up the mountainside.
The switchbacks are relentless—but fortunately, the lush spruce forest offers a good deal of shade along the way, particularly in the mornings when the sun is still behind Ballard Mountain itself. After a few switchbacks, you’ll come to a fork in the trail, marked with two iron arrows pegged to a tree, demarcating the intersection between Deer Trail and Ballard. Stay right to remain on the Ballard Mountain Trail, where another hour or two of switchbacks await you.
When you emerge in an open basin filled with large boulders and rock spires, the trail continues on climber’s left. Soon after, you’ll emerge on the ridgeline up to the summit. Stay on the clear trail along the ridge and scramble up a scree-laden couloir (beware that snow can linger here into late June) to the summit, where you’ll find a small rock cairn—as well as stunning views into Jackass Basin, Silver Lake and Ingram Falls on your left, Gold Hill and Wilson Peak to your right and, directly behind you, the town of Telluride framed by the Sneffels Range.
If you’re feeling feisty, enjoy the ridgeline scramble across to 13,000+ foot Ballards Horn, just to your south, before making the return journey down the way you came up.
Who is Going to Love It
If you’re a glutton for pain, you’ll fawn over these relentless switchbacks that sweep you up 4,300 vertical feet of climb in about 3 miles. Bag this peak and be confident you’re strong enough to handle any other gnarly day hike in the Telluride area.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From town, head south on Pine Street, where a gravel doubletrack trail leading up into the woods will take you to the Bear Creek trail. The trailhead itself has no parking lot, but street parking in town is available within a block or two.
Note: many streets in Telluride are limited to two-hour parking, so be wary of these restrictions—or seek free, all-day parking at the Carhenge Lot on the southwest corner of town, off West Pacific Ave. From the Carhenge lot, you can walk along the wide, flat River Trail that parallels the San Miguel River and reach the Bear Creek trailhead in about a half-mile.