A hike Erin and I took last month in the high country… the Mohawk Lakes Trail up to Continental Falls, south of Breckenridge in the Mosquito Range. Always one of my faves, this hike has everything – forest, waterfalls, mine ruins, and high mountain lakes obviously. But today we’re only hiking up to the lower falls – 6 miles out and back. So we get an early start and we’re at the trailhead by 8:00. The air is cool and very humid when we get there. It’s been a very rainy year and that’s always good here in Colorado.
Starting from the Spruce Creek Trailhead, it’s 2 miles of well-marked, well-maintained trail through pine and spruce forest, starting at about 10,400 feet and gradually, gently ascending to the Mohawk Lakes Trailhead. So this is the easy part of the hike. If you have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, you can drive up to the Mohawk Lakes Trailhead and start from there, otherwise you’ll be hiking through the forest alongside Spruce Creek.
Over the years this has become a more well-known and popular hike so if solitude in the forest is your thing, you’ll definitely want to start early – the earlier the better. I hadn’t been on the first part of the trail since 2003 and it receives a lot more traffic now. Also, pay attention to the tree roots that criss-cross the trail lest you take an unexpected tumble (as a few hikers did that morning).
When you get to the Mohawk Lakes Trailhead, there the real hike begins. The trail is steep for the next mile and only levels off when you approach the first set of mine/mill ruins and Lower Continental Falls at about 11,500 feet. This was our destination today.
The trail to Lower and Upper Mohawk Lakes continues to the left after you reach the cabin which is relatively intact from the 19th century and still used as a shelter for hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers, particularly during the winter months. There is a guest book here so sign on in and say ‘hi’!
After spending some time at the lower falls, Erin and I make our descent back down the Mohawk Lakes Trail, then veer off onto the 4WD forest road as it’s not quite as lengthy and time-consuming as the hike back through the forest on the Spruce Creek Trail. It’s midday so it’s about a 4-hour hike, out and back, to Lower Continental Falls. Despite the abundance of mosquitoes after a rainy spring and early summer, it’s still a great hike.
We drive back to Colorado Hwy. 9 and head north through Breckenridge up to Frisco and stop in at a favorite watering hole I’ve been coming to since the 90’s, the Backcountry Brewery, for lunch and a couple of seasonal beers from their brewery – the customary celebratory pints at a local microbrew afterwards. The Golden Maiboch is especially good.
To get to the trailhead for this hike… Through Breckenridge, drive 1 mile south on CO Hwy. 9 to the small town of Blue River and take a right on Crown Dr. Follow Crown Dr. – it becomes Spruce Creek Rd. and follow the signs to the trailhead parking lot. Coming up from Fairplay on Hwy. 9, take a left on Spruce Creek Rd. (Forest Road 800) and follow it to the left to the trailhead parking lot.