Coordinates Breckenridge: From Gold Rush to Black Diamonds

February 14, 2017

  • by
  • Melanie Ott

Destination name: Breckenridge, Colorado


The Town of Breckenridge is located in the Rocky Mountains of Summit County, Colorado, about 90 minutes west of Denver via I70. The town and surrounding area were mining hubs during the Gold Rush of the 1850s and with the arrival of the railroad in 1882. In 1961, the Breckenridge Ski Area officially opened with two chairlifts. Today, Breckenridge Resort is one of the most visited in the country, and the town offers year-round dining, lodging, shopping and relaxing for all ages, tastes and visitors.

Lionello DelPiccolo

Primary Active Pursuits

Winter Activities
Breckenridge is primarily known as a mountain ski town, with the namesake resort seeing an average of 300 inches of snow and 300 days of sunshine each year. With 34 lifts, over 180 trails and nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, visitors of all experience levels can find runs across the five peaks to meet their skillset. And lessons are available for those new to alpine skiing and riding.

Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are other popular winter activities in the area with over 30 miles of cross-country trails maintained for exploration. And for cyclists, Breck is an excellent area to jump on a fat bike and pedal around the snowy trail system or less trafficked areas like Tiger Road and Summit Estates route.

Hiking is not off the agenda due to snow. Active Junky headed to nearby Quandary Peak mid-winter to hike the 14,265-footer. Testers packed up microspikes, snowshoes, skis and skins to summit the peak in a 6.2-mile roundtrip hike. We lucked out with ideal weather conditions, but make sure you’re properly geared up and prepared for unpredictable winter storms.

Summer Activities
When the weather warms up and the snow melts, the town and mountain are just as full of adventure options. Mountain biking is a huge draw to the area, where you can find several single-track biking trails accessed via the Colorado SuperChair lift to Peak 8.

Water-based activities are plentiful as well. Those seeking white water have the nearby Blue River for some family-friendly rafting with beginner rapids from Class IIs up to IVs. If a SUP is more your paddling preference, Maggie Pond or Lake Dillon are great destinations. Boards, kayaks and boats are all available for rental at the Dillon Marina.

Dillon Lake has much to offer avid fishers, too, with over 50,000 rainbow trout to start the season. The Blue River hosts rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Further outside of town you can find backcountry fishing spots, some requiring short hikes, at places like Swan River and Mohawk Lakes.

Other Cultural and Recreation Gems

Main Street is a festive, albeit touristy, strip in the center of town, offering everything from family friendly experiences to an extensive nightlife, and hosts film festivals, concerts and art exhibits. When Active Junky visited, we were in time for the annual Snow Sculpture Championship where artists carve enormous blocks of snow into works of art, like a Viking ship or playful Bernese Mountain Dog.

Lionello DelPiccolo

More than 30 restaurants, bars and pubs line Main Street, including the Breckenridge Brewery where you can stop in and try a local microbrew. For a little history with your drink, choose the Gold Pan Saloon, erected in 1879 during the Gold Rush and still open for business over 130 years later. 

Actual mine sites like Lomax Gulch still exist and offer tours and gold panning experiences, and several museums showcase the area’s rich heritage. Have a look at the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance website for more information on tours and attractions tied to the town’s history.

Lodging and Dining

Lodging options are not in short supply and range from ski-in, ski-out rentals to hotels in the city. For several stay options, check out the Bivvi Hostel with rustic yet modern accommodations. Choose from shared rooms that sleep four or six, or private rooms for two or three. The Aspen Alley Apartment sleeps four in two king-bed rooms, full kitchen and living room with fireplace. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast each morning, and the Bivvi Bar sells beer and wine for après-ski refreshment.

Lionello DelPiccolo

Strolling Main Street provides ample dining options. For breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, don’t miss Crepes A La Cart, a well-known staple in the town. Essentially a fixed food truck, Crepe offers both savory and sweet menu items – some with a splash of liquor – served out the window in a paper sleeve. And they are delicious.

Lionello DelPiccolo

For a sit-down meal and an amazing cocktail, head to the Blue River Bistro. With gourmet dishes ranging from beef tenderloin and mahi mahi to vegetarian salad entrées, Blue River Bistro is sure to satisfy all diners and diets. And check out their signature cocktail list. Our recommendation, Scooter’s Dark Side – strawberry infused vodka, muddled basil leaves, balsamic and lemon syrup.

Best Season

The town and surrounding areas offer year-round entertainment and adventures, so the best time to visit depends on your preferred activity. As one of the most visited resorts in the country, Breckenridge is bustling with people during peak ski season. But if your activity-of-choice leads you to the mountain, such is the nature of the beast. But with five peaks and ample terrain, you can still find some isolated mountain time.

Summer is less busy in Breckenridge, but it’s by no means a ghost town. To avoid crowds, choose to go in shoulder seasons before and after the ski season. Crisp fall weather can persist into November when crowds are scarce, offering beautiful autumn hiking, biking and fishing opportunities.

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