Paying up for the Peak: Quandary
Access to one of Colorado's most popular hikes will now cost you the price of a Rockies game. Here's how to get around it.
Today Summit County will begin restricting access to Colorado’s most popular 14’er — that ranking is based on the latest usage report from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.
The changes make Quandary the latest domino to fall in the trend of restricted access, following Mount Evans and Grays and Torreys. More are likely coming soon at Rocky Mountain National Park and Maroon Bells.
(I’m keeping a close eye on those too, by the way. At a time when new access rules seem to be taking effect every odd week, wouldn’t it be nice to get a heads up before you schlep up to the mountains?)
These new rules apply for the trailhead for both Quandary Peak, and McCullough Gulch. Visitors have two choices:
Make an advance reservation, which can be done here. Half-day access is $20. Full-day is $50.
Take the free shuttle from Breckenridge to the trailhead. Shuttles run every 30 minutes. The trip itself is roughly 20.
Of all the reservation systems I have seen, this seems to be the biggest racket. Fines for noncompliance are $100, plus a $50 late fee.
Safety and Tourist Dollars
Bafflingly, the system also seems to encourage you to hike Quandary in the afternoon by offering a 12:00pm - 7:00pm parking slot. If you’re unfamiliar, afternoon hiking above the tree line is a big no-no in summer months. Likewise, forcing morning hikers to rush back to their cars to check out before 11:30am also seems unsafe.
Bottom line: the fees for Quandary seem excessive compared to other areas with permits. Without getting too speculative: the goal appears to be encouraging visitors to opt for the shuttle instead of dealing with parking.
This move feels a bit like an amusement park making you walk through the gift shop on the way out; given that the shuttle drops you off just north of downtown Breckenridge.
I don’t believe tourism dollars are the only motivating factor here. But pretending Summit County doesn’t see an opportunity to monetize such a frequented spot, also seems naïve.
This picture undersells how crowded Quandary actually is. I started this hike early enough that I was in one of the first waves to summit. This was also two years ago. Traffic has only increased since then.
49,000 Hikers Don’t Disappear
As I previously mentioned: the best ballpark estimate for Quandary is 49,000 visitors each year. While some of them may stay home, deprived the glory of summiting one of Colorado’s most straightforward 14’ers, many others will surely go elsewhere. This could have a few long term impacts.
Fewer hikers on Quandary
More afternoon hikers on Quandary
Crowding of nearby destinations
Dispersed search and rescue calls in different areas
Increased search and rescue calls from rushed hikers
More close calls or lightning fatalities due to afternoon summiting
Revenue for Summit County
More customers for Breckenridge
Only time will tell, though. For more updates, please consider signing up to have these posts delivered right to your inbox.