Hiking Pacific Peak: Free 13er Guide and Map

Pacific Peak is a stunning mountain in the Tenmile Range of Colorado. Easily viewed from Vail Pass and nearby ski areas, hiking Pacific Peak is a moderately challenging scramble that includes a steep headwall as its crux. In early summer months this route still holds plenty of snow, so bring along an ice axe and microspikes/crampons if you plan to do it in June or early July. For beginners I would advise waiting until August for hiking Pacific Peak. Start planning your ascent below with my complete route guide.

New to 13ers? Check out my beginners guide here to get started!

Hiking Pacific Peak | Fast Facts

Hiking Pacific Peak - Southeast Slopes Route

NOTE: You must now take the shuttle or reserve a parking permit in advance to visit McCullough Gulch. Click here to learn more.

Park at the gate and start hiking Pacific Peak along the road up McCullough Gulch. Parking here along the road fills quickly, so it’s a good idea to arrive early to ensure you find a spot. After around half a mile, take a trail to the left of the road and head into the forest. 

Near 11,600 feet there are several waterfalls. You can take a social trail to view the falls or stick to the main path on the right to climb over this moraine. You’ll come to a beautiful alpine lake, with many dispersed camping sites around it. It’s a great place to pause for a snack while hiking Pacific Peak

Head along the north side of the lake along the trail, and look for a ramp along the stone moraine ahead of you. Follow cairns and trail segments that take you up into the upper Basin. There may be snow here in early summer, use microspikes while hiking Pacific Peak from here out if needed.

The trail here will begin to fade as you near another lake around 12,500 feet. Angle northwest and climb a rib that separates you from the northern half of the basin.

From here, you have a half-mile talus hop to reach the bottom of the headwall, which is the crux of the route You’ll climb this to reach the saddle that lies between Atlantic and Pacific Peak. The headwall holds snow late into the year. It’s a good idea to bring an ice ax and crampons in case you come across snow. Take your time climbing this headwall, sticking to the center for the last steep climb.

As you near the top, angle towards the left and continue up to the ridge. Towards your left is Atlantic Peak, and to the right is Pacific Peak, though it may be hidden behind a false summit. Take a moment to check the weather before you climb this final few hundred feet.

Hike north up the ridge and bypass the small point at 13,500 feet. Continue up the south ridge to finish hiking Pacific Peak and reach the summit. From here you can see into the Sawatch range to the west or the Front Range to the east. Make sure you begin your descent quick enough to reach the tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard.

Hiking Pacific Peak Topo Map

 

You need to bring a topographical map with you while hiking Pacific Peak. I recommend downloading this map on your phone and printing out a paper copy as a backup in case you run out of batteries or lose your electronics. A GPS unit and compass are also good navigation tools to keep with you while hiking Pacific Peak.

You should check the weather forecast multiple times, from multiple sources, before hiking Pacific Peak. Here are several good sources for the Pacific Peak Route:

Mountain Forecast for Near Pacific Peak

NOAA Forecast for Pacific Peak

Don’t try hiking Pacific Peak without the right gear and equipment or you might end up miserable, lost, or injured. Here’s what I recommend bringing with you for a typical summer season trip.

  • A good pair of hiking boots
  • The ten essentials
  • A backpack to carry everything
  • Two liters of water and the means to get more
  • 1,500 calories of food/snacks
  • Trekking poles for balance
  • Satellite messenger/personal locator beacon
  • An ice axe and crampons (in the spring and early summer seasons)

This list will help you stay safe and make your trip much more comfortable!

Camping near Pacific Peak:

There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads leading past the trailhead ideal for those hiking Pacific Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Pacific Peak:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Breckenridge, Frisco, and the surrounding area, ideal for those hiking Pacific Peak

The area around Pacific Peak is incredibly beautiful but it’s also very fragile and easily damaged. As more and more visitors head to the high country, it’s never been more important to practice leave no trace ethics in the outdoors. Remember to do the following while hiking Pacific Peak to protect the mountains for future generations.

  • Stay on trails whenever possible during your hike.
  • Give wildlife 100 feet of space and do not feed them.
  • Keep dogs on leash and clean up after them.
  • Leave what you find, and take all your trash home with you.
  • Be kind and courteous to others on the trail and follow trail etiquette.

Pacific Peak, like its neighbor Atlantic Peak, is named after the continental divide that runs nearby. Strangely enough, both peaks are on the Pacific side of the divide, so Pacific Peak is the correctly named of the two. 

Hiking Pacific Peak is growing in popularity as the mountain is one of Colorado’s tallest 100 summits. This list is called the Centennials and is becoming more popular as people complete the 14ers and look for more challenges.

Hiking Pacific Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Hiking Pacific Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.

Alex Derr, Creator of The Next Summit

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

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