Hiking in Dillon
Dillon has a unique history for a mountain town. The original town of Dillon now lies at the bottom of Lake Dillon. When the Dillon Dam was built, the town was moved to its current location with some buildings transplanted to new properties. Located in gorgeous Summit County, Dillon visitors have a lot of options for outdoor activities but no visit would be complete without a Dillon hiking trip.
Old Dillon Reservoir
1.5 miles/ vertical 150 ft.
Dillon Reservoir attracts visitors year after year with a variety of activities from sailing, canoeing, and stand up paddling to biking the recreation path that runs along the shore. However the old Dillon Reservoir is not far and provides a great family hike. The hike is about three quarters of a mile and has less than 200 ft of elevation change. Some highlights are the beautiful wildflowers and spectacular views of the old reservoir and Summit County.
2.5 miles/ vertical minimal
Tenderfoot Mountain Trail offers views of Dillon Reservoir and the peaks of Tenmile Range as it weaves through alpine meadows. The south-facing slope the trail follows makes this easygoing hike perfect morning and evening hikes as you explore groves of aspens and lodgepoles. The one-and-a-quarter-mile trail climbs through wildflowers alternating with forest up until the end of the hike where you’ll reach an overlook of the lake and surrounding peaks.
5.3 miles/ 225 ft.
The Dillon Reservoir Recreation Area offers easy hiking opportunities; the mostly flat gated dirt road to the West Portal of the Roberts Tunnel is hikable year-round while the forested Meadow Loop and Ridge Trails can sometimes be obscured by snow. Various combinations of the two trails and road provide shorter or longer walks all with fantastic views of Dillon Reservoir, Dillon, the Gore Range, and the Tenmile Range. Interpretive signs created by fourth and fifth graders at Dillon Valley Elementary School add insight into the area and its inhabitants, both wild and human. The Dillon Nature Preserve contains two trails but is first and foremost a nature preserve. Keep your eyes open for fox, pine squirrels, deer, red-tailed hawks, and ospreys. Being lower than many trails in central Summit County, the snow melts sooner and the flowers bloom earlier here.
The Ptarmigan Trail
The Ptarmigan Trail travels through almost every type of natural environment that Summit County offers. A short drive from downtown Dillon brings you to the trailhead in a thick pine forest. When you begin the hike the forest obstructs most of the views but there are some open areas that have great views of the lower Blue River Valley. As you ascend towards the tree line the forest thins out and there is more variation to the trees. Once you pass the tree line the views of the Ten Mile Range, Lake Dillon, and the Gore Range from Ptarmigan are second to none. Be sure to keep a lookout for the elk herd known to graze on the peak. The full length of the trail is 12 miles with and 3,400 ft elevation change and there are shorter loops if you do not feel like taking on the entire distance.
15 miles/ 2532 ft.
One of the lesser known hikes but one of the best in Summit County is Mesa Cortina. Mesa Cortina stretches 15 miles over the Gore Mountain Range going up and over Red-Buffalo Pass. The route is great because the total elevation change is only 2,500 ft making the long hike a little easier for less experienced hikers. Mesa Cortina goes through the full spectrum of Summit County environments and provides a different viewpoint for hikers as most of the popular hiking looks towards the Gore Mountain Range. Another perk of hiking Mesa Cortina is that you can hike as long or as short as you would like. Camp halfway through, split it over a few days, or make it one seriously long day hike. Mesa Cortina was in consideration to become Interstate 70, but you’ll be glad it was left as a hiking trail when you explore its many vistas and alpine meadows.
Dillon hiking excursions are the perfect way to experience Colorado.