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#163 / 13,670' Mount Jackson

Range › Sawatch Range
Quadrangle › Mount Jackson
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 29' 06.89", W 106° 32' 12.35" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon UN 13433

Peak Summary

Located in the very heart of the Holy Cross Wilderness, Mt. Jackson poses a difficult "access" issue along with its neighbor, UN13,433.  The peak is likely not done as a "day hike" but rather a 2 or 3 day backpack trip. There are several possible access points. The mountain itself is basically a Class 2 ascent on a tundra/rock mix. Being the lazy peakbaggers that we are, our "trailhead" for this climb is the Beaver Creek Ski Area. Read on for further details.

Mt. Jackson North Ridge Route

Class 2
Peak Icon Peak Icon
Long Day // Back for Dinner
Climbed with UN 13433
RT From Beaver Creek Ski Area: 16 mi / 6,150'
RT From Waterdog Lake with UN 13433: 9 mi / 4,150'
  • Trailhead
    • Beaver Creek Ski Area Trailhead

      From I-70, take the main Avon exit and drive south through 4 traffic circles south of the interstate. At the 4th circle, exit west on old Highway 6 and drive a short distance to a large parking lot that serves the ski area. You may want to call the ski area and/or local police in advance to check their policies in regards to leaving a vehicle parked here overnight. From the parking lot, catch the next shuttle bus up to the base of the Beaver Creek Ski Area with your loaded pack in tow. Locate the window for purchasing a lift ticket and make whatever purchase will get you highest on the mountain. In the two years we did this, (1995 & 2002) we rode the "Centennial Express Lift" to the Spruce Saddle Lodge at 10,200 ft. In 2002, this cost us $16 each. In 1995, we were able to obtain a "family day pass." In both years, the pass would be good for a 24 hour period so we could ride up one day and catch the lift down the next day before it closed. Whatever pass they issue now, check carefully to see if you'll be able to use it the next day.


      Camping

      Do not expect any easily accessible camping around Avon.
    Approach Map
    • From Beaver Creek Ski Area TH via Waterdog Lake

      Because ski area procedures and policies change from year to year, you may need to update this information with your own research. Because the various foot approaches to Mt. Jackson involve a significant number of hiking miles, our proposed approach reduces this climb to the least number of hiking miles possible. Whether or not you choose to use this approach may depend on how you feel about the legitimacy of using a ski lift to get you part way up a mountain.

      From I-70, take the main Avon exit and drive south through 4 traffic circles south of the interstate. At the 4th circle, exit west on old Highway 6 and drive a short distance to a large parking lot that serves the ski area. You may want to call the ski area and/or local police in advance to check their policies in regards to leaving a vehicle parked here overnight. From the parking lot, catch the next shuttle bus up to the base of the Beaver Creek Ski Area with your loaded pack in tow. Locate the window for purchasing a lift ticket and make whatever purchase will get you highest on the mountain. In the two years we did this, (1995 & 2002) we rode the "Centennial Express Lift" to the Spruce Saddle Lodge at 10,200 ft. In 2002, this cost us $16 each. In 1995, we were able to obtain a "family day pass." In both years, the pass would be good for a 24 hour period so we could ride up one day and catch the lift down the next day before it closed. Whatever pass they issue now, check carefully to see if you'll be able to use it the next day.

      Once aboard the lift, enjoy the brief ride that will save you 2 miles of packing and about 2,000 ft. in elevation gain. Assuming that the Spruce Saddle Lodge is as far as you can ride, depart from here and begin your hiking or backpacking adventure. Begin by hiking under lift #8, the "Cinch Express Lift" and follow it on moderate uphill terrain to the top of the ski mountain at 11,440 ft. This will take about one hour. A little west of the lift station, a dirt road leads into the forest to a microwave station. From the station, we found a faint, cairn-marked trail that continued south through trees. A clearing at 11, 560 ft. is about where you'll encounter the wilderness boundary, marked by stakes. A little after there, you'll exit the trees for open ridge hiking. Continue hiking south along the ridge crest on mostly tundra with some rocks and possibly patches of snow in earlier season. Just past the point marked 12,161 ft., the ridge descends some. We found some grassy spots to camp on just below two closed contour marks of 12,000 ft. This will be south of and about 400 feet above Waterdog Lake. It's also possible to descend further to the saddle and find some campsites in the trees. It takes another hour from the top lift to arrive here. Expect mosquitoes, but camping higher on the open ridge will expose you to some breezes that may keep some of the mosquitoes away. From a campsite on the open ridge, you may have a view further south of the western flank of Grouse Mountain where in previous years, a very large herd of elk could be observed.


      Camping

      Do not expect to find any convenient, overnight camping anywhere near around Avon. Both times we've done this trip, we did it as an overnight backpack, so the one night of camping was on the high ridge north of Grouse Mountain, as described above. There, you will be on wilderness land with no camping restrictions unless there's a fire ban.


      Campsite Locations

      Waterdog Lake Camp 39° 32' 32.32, W 106° 30' 39.49"
      This campsite is actually on the ridge above and south of Waterdog Lake at about 11.950 ft.

      Open This Approach in a New Window
    Peak Icon Route Map

    Route Info Mt. Jackson North Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2002

    The route begins from the campsite described in the "approach." From that campsite, descend to the forested saddle at 11,540 ft. Then continue hiking south up the ridge and gain open, grassy terrain as you contour across the vast, west slope of Grouse Mountain. Watch for a large elk herd here which may be feeding in the grass early morning, or down in the trees to the west later morning and afternoon. Aim for a saddle WSW of Grouse Mountain and contour to it, utilizing the myriad elk paths. From the saddle, turn SW and hike uphill along the ridge over what begins as tundra, but quickly gives way to a boulder field. For about a half mile, work your way through rocks & boulders. Further up, return to tundra walking and admire the steep-walled valley down to the east.

    Skirt the 13,202 summit and continue walking SW over tundra with embedded rock and then follow the ridge as it makes a turn to the south. Here, you'll encounter the only "tricky" section of the entire climb. There's a 100 yard section that becomes rocky, narrow and a little exposed with large blocks of rock. It's best to stay on top of the ridge wherever possible. Carefully work your way through to a minor saddle then begin the final ascent to the summit of Jackson. Finish on broken rocks & boulders.

    For the return trip, simply retrace your ascent route back to your campsite, then rush to hike back to the lift before it closes for the day, which will probably be around 4:00 PM. With 9 miles to cover from your campsite, plus another three miles back down to the lift, an early start for this day is required as well as keeping moving all along the way.

"The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail." Charles R. Swindoll
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