Skip to content

Hoosier Pass Loop Winter Hike

Distance1.93 mi
Elevation Gain472 ft
My Time1 hr 13 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownFairplay
Food NearbyDorothy’s Tamales

Warning

I have gone back and forth about posting this post. A week after I did the hike two people and their dog were killed in an avalanche at Hoosier Pass. There were avalanche signs up and they went further than I did but it could happen anywhere. I decided to make this post because a lot of people, like me, go to this area to recreate and I think having this warning might make people be a little more cautious. Before hiking in the winter make sure to check the avalanche forecast from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

I also spoke with the Summit County Rescue Group in a podcast shortly after this incident and there is some more information about how to be prepared on this podcast. I hope you are all safe when you go into the mountains and back country but especially in the winter.

Getting Started

Hoosier Pass in winter is a popular area year round for tourists and locals alike. The Hoosier Pass Loop takes you to the top of a 12,000 foot hill that is surrounded on all sides by peaks and is really beautiful. In the winter folks come out to cross country ski, snowshoe, and hike in the area.

When you park at the Hoosier Pass geological marker, you can begin the hike by taking the county road at the north end of the parking lot. In the winter the road is narrowed down to a smaller trail through the snow but it is still pretty easy to follow.

A wider path, maybe 8 feet wide, in the snow forms the Hoosier Pass loop trail.
The path from Hoosier Pass

This begining of the road will take you through these lines of pine trees before coming to a T. You will want to head to the left and the road will begin to climb in elevation and bank back around the the west and around the hill. That is when you will begin to see the real impressive sights of the hike.

Walking Among Giants

As the road begins to make its turn some of the surrounding mountains will come into focus. The large mountain complex that is visible is what is known as DeCaLiBron. Where 14ers Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross are. Those mountains covered in snow make for a great sight especially under a blue sky.

DeCaLiBron from Hoosier Pass
DeCaLiBron from Hoosier Pass

The trail it self is pretty well packed down but it narrows considerably from the eight foot wide road. While a lot of people hike this in winter I did bring my snow shoes for my trip and I think they were helpful in getting traction on the snow. The trail also has a gradual incline of between 7-10% grade so nothing too difficult but definitely noticeable.

A narrow trail in the snow runs vertically on the right side of the screen with snowy peaks in the distance on the left side from Hoosier Pass Loop trail.
Snowy trail, Snowy peaks.

Up the Hill

I made some bad decisions going up the hill, especially in light of the warning I put at the top of this page. I followed a couple of people who were ahead of me who went up a path that wasn’t the official trail. Sometimes trails are a bit different in the winter and I followed people but I should have stayed on the main trail.

That being said I made my way up the hill at just about the one mile mark into the trail. Going up the hill was a bit steep with grades ranging from 16% to 23%. This area to climb the hill was much shorter and I made it to the top of the ridge in just two-tenths of a mile. The top of the ridge gives some pretty amazing views down towards the Breckenridge area…

From the rocky top of the Hoosier Pass Loop the mountains form a perfect line towards Breckenridge with white tops and dark bottoms.
A line of mountains from Hoosier Pass.

As well as back across the deep snow blanketed towards DeCaLiBron.

DeCaLiBron sticking out above a blanket of snow that is the ridgeline from a high elevation so only the top half of Democrat is visible.
DeCaLiBron above the Ridge.

On top of the ridge the intense winds had blown the snow so the ridge was actually just rock. Since I was in my snow shoes I decided not to continue down the ridge to the high point in the loop. Yet another reason I should have stayed on the main trail and not taken the short cut trail.

The Return

I returned the way I came and coming down the 23% grade was more challenging in the snow shoes and I sank more. Another reason to take the main trail.

The views at Hoosier Pass in winter are amazing and I am glad that I went. After hearing about the avalanche I felt really lucky that I was able to do the short hike that I did and return safely. I made some mistakes that I won’t do again.

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 1.93 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 472 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 12,007 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hours and 13 minutes.

Effort

While the Hoosier Pass Loop isn’t the most challenging hike from a distance or elevation standpoint it really gets a little extra effort because it is right around the 12,000 foot mark. When You add on the snow that adds just another degree of difficulty especially if you don’t have proper snow traction.

Terrain

The terrain under the snow at Hoosier Pass is a really nice service road. It is wide and has plenty of room. In the snow however, the trail gets down to a narrow almost single file path depending on how far you go along the path. The area is well used by hikers, snow shoers and skiers so the trail gets pretty well packed down but I would still suggest some form of traction to make it easier.

Access

Hoosier Pass is located well, at Hoosier Pass. The Hoosier Pass is on Colorado 9 between Breckenridge and Fairplay. The pass is popular all year long and there is parking for about 20 cars. There are no restroom facilities at the pass. The loop trail is up the county road at the end of the parking area.

Wrapping Up Hoosier Pass Winter

Hoosier Pass is an absolutely beautiful area with some of my favorite views in Colorado. I have done this hike three times now. Once in fall surrounded by beautiful fall colors in the valley below, once at sunset which was amazing with the sun dipping below the mountains, and this time in the snow. I think the snow might be my favorite of all of the times.

Something about the snow makes the area feel crisp and sharp and seeing the snow covered mountains around also make for amazing views. Unfortunately, two people were killed in this area, one mountain down from where I was. It shows that no matter how pretty and safe an area looks there are always risks to hiking in the winter.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

2 thoughts on “Hoosier Pass Loop Winter Hike”

  1. Hi, Greg! I’m glad to hear that you’re fine. I’m going to Breckenridge to visit some relatives and I thought it’s a great opportunity to take this trail as well. I had my doubts on going, but your amazing pictures sold me. I’ll make sure to remember to stick to the main trail. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: