White River National Forest
Lower Crystal Lake Camp at 12,000 feet in Colorado ski resort sidecountry.
The backside of Breckenridge Ski Resort is a no man’s land. In winter, only small parties of expert skiers visit on powder days. And in the summer? Steep, unmarked roads and popular easy-access Mohawk Lakes (two nearby jewels just below the Continental Divide) to the south keep this spot off the radar. Plus, sleeping at 12,000 feet isn’t for everyone (acclimatize in town if you are coming from the lowlands). But if you like your scenery decidedly alpine and your neighbors nonexistent (and you have a sturdy 4x4), this exposed, grassy site is a backpacker’s dream. Hike plan: Tackle an off-trail ascent of 13,852-foot Crystal Peak or just stroll two trail miles to skip stones at Upper Crystal Lake. Wind? Find sheltered sites within the trees near the road.
Get there From Breckenridge, take US 9 south 2.1 miles to Spruce Creek Rd. Turn right, and go 1.5 miles to Crystal Creek Rd. Turn right, and go 2.4 miles. UTM 13S 0406303E 4365712N Map Breckenridge/Tennessee Pass ($12, natgeomaps.com) Contactfs.usda.gov/whiteriver; (970)468-5400