|Elevation Gain||1,516 ft*|
|My Time||3 hr 13 min|
|Food Nearby||Platte River Saloon|
The hike to Pennsylvania Mountain is a short and steep hike that takes you to just above 13,000 feet. The exposed hike has 360 degree views of mountains as you make your way into the high country.
The trailhead is a little tricky to find, or it was for me because of some road construction, as it isn’t marked but is just at the end of the dirt road, CO-14A. Once you find it the trail begins with really nice walk through some woods and tall bushes. This only lasts for about a half mile before the first big hill of the hike comes into view.
As you can see above once you hit the hill the hike is fully exposed and if you can see the small trail leading up this first hill, you will notice there isn’t much by way of switchbacks. The trail just goes straight vertical up the side of the hill.
There are several hills on this hike and each one is a little different but they do have one thing in common. They are steep. The hike keeps a bit of a pattern of hike a hill, small flat area, followed by the next hill. This actually made for a nice way to catch the breath in between steep sections.
The first hill is the shortest and only lasts about two-tenths of a mile but does get to about a 25% incline grade. The longest flat area is also between the first and second hill.
The second hill, seen above, is a bit longer and bit more steep. This one lasts just under three-tenths of a mile but actually touches the 30% grade range at the beginning. This one was pretty tough and I took plenty of breaks on the way up.
I also thought that this second hill was the end of the hike. From the bottom you can’t tell that there is higher summit on top of this one. But there is, I promise you. The top of this second hill is actually really short too so you almost immediately start onto the third hill.
The third hill is the longest at three-tenths of a mile but only gets to the mid 20% range as far as grade goes. To add a degree of difficulty though, the third hill is mostly loose rock. The rocks are big though so it isn’t terribly hard to find a path up.
The trail disappears before you reach this point so a lot of the third hill is just trying to find the safest path up the rocks.
One of the interesting features of the hike are these large craters that appear throughout.
I had some thoughts on these and a couple I met, Dan and Rebeca, had some ideas as well. I like the idea that they are from a meteor shower. I don’t know if that is true or not but I like it. I also thought that maybe a large boulder was rolling and bouncing down the hill that caused these as it landed.
Some of the other theories were that this hill was used as target practice during military training years back or that the holes were caused by miners doing test explosions to see if there was any valuable metal underneath.
What ever the cause, it is a nice distraction from the steep hills and barren terrain!
The False Summit
After the third hill, the rocks, and the craters, surely we are done with the hike right? Not exactly. The third hill that you arrive on is at about 12,900 feet and not quite Pennsylvania Mountain. That mountain is down the valley and up another hill to finish the hike.
A lot of the people that were doing the hike stopped on this summit and called it a day and I can’t blame them. The views are very nice from this hill.
But if you are looking to make it an official 13er, or see the rest of the view you have to make it through the valley and to the other summit.
The summit! Finally! After a lot of false hope the summit is a little anticlimactic. The end of the hike on Pennsylvania Mountain is a very large hill top. It doesn’t seem all that special compared to the previous hill you were on but it does have some pretty amazing views on its own.
I am glad that I came over to the actual peak but I understand those that don’t. The extra half mile and additional 300 feet of elevation to make it to the top are a little disheartening after climbing the big hills at the beginning of the hike.
That being said, since it is a tall and flat topped mountain the views are pretty unobstructed for 360 degrees and worth it. It is also a nice are to relax after all the vertical feet. Just don’t forget that you need to climb back up to the third hill before you make your way back!
I really enjoyed this hike and the views from 13-thousand feet never get old!
I have put a couple of videos together about the Pennsylvania Mountain Hike. If you like them and would like to see more make sure to like and subscribe to my YouTube channel. It’s free and you will get updates as soon as a new video is available.
The first video is a narrative version of the hike:
This second video is a time-lapse version of the hike so you can see the entire trail. I like to call it my Hikers Edit:
Distance and Elevation
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 5.29 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,516 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 13,022 feet. I was also moving for a total of 3 hours and 13 minutes.
I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.
While not too technically difficult other than some rocky surfaces, this hike is like walking straight up stairs for two miles. The trail that goes straight up several hills with really no switchbacks. The elevation gain leads to a challenging hike from just pure elevation. The hike also gets to above 13,000 feet so if you are not used to the altitude that could be an issue as well.
The first third of the trail has a narrow dirt trail that is easy to follow. As you get higher up on the hills the trail disappears and the terrain turns much more rocky. The hillside becomes just a field of loose rock before making it to the first main summit. The valley between summits has some grasses and plants but not a really well established trail. I would strongly recommend a good pair of hiking boots to deal with the unstable rocky surface.
Pennsylvania Mountain is in the Fairplay/Alma area and has a small trailhead at the end of a neighborhood on Co-14A. The roads through the neighborhood are dirt and rocky so make sure you take your time to getting there. There are no facilities at the trailhead and there is only parking for a few cars although you can park on the side of the road.
Wrapping up Pennsylvania Mountain
The Pennsylvania Mountain was a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde hike for me. The hike is no nonsense. You will be walking straight up a hill, and then another hill, and another and one more for fun. The views are pretty impressive as there is nothing to block the views of the surrounding mountains.
I think a lot of people miss making it to the actual summit of Pennsylvania as the summit right before it feels more like the peak. The final and proper summit almost feels anticlimactic after conquering the main hills of the hike but the views over there are worth it as well.
Make sure that you have protection to the sun and wind as the whole hike is completely exposed to the elements. Overall a really nice hike and an “easy” 13er that doesn’t have too much from a technical standpoint. The elevation walking straight up the hills was enough of a challenge for me!
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