Pennsylvania Mtn. is a quick and easy Class 1 hike from the trailhead we suggest, which is accessible by passenger vehicle with a few miles of maintained, graded dirt road driving out of Fairplay. There's not many that come any easier than this one. Mostly tundra & very little rock to contend with.
Pennsylvania Mtn SE Ridge Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Pennsylvania Mtn Trailhead:
This trailhead is passenger car accessible in most conditions. Only the last tenth or two of a mile gets any rougher, so parking back a ways from the trailhead will not increase length significantly if you're unable to make it to the end of the road.
This trailhead lies in a complicated subdivision with numerous roads that wind all over the place. The route we provide here is the simplest and most direct way in we could find. From the main intersection of US 285 and SH 9 at Fairplay, head north on SH 9, being careful not to exceed the town's speed limit. At 3.1 mile from the intersection cited above, turn left onto County Road 1. Reset odometer here. This road generally heads west and NW before reaching a place where it will abruptly make a turn to the south, go west a little more, then south again to cross Pennsylvania Creek. Any intersections encountered before here, you should just proceed straight through.
Just after crossing Pennsylvania Creek, at 3.8 miles from SH 9 , turn right onto Valley of the Sun Rd. (aka: CR14A). Go west 1 mile to a switchback & intersection. Total mileage to here is 4.8. Go up and around the switchback and you'll then be on Bobcat Lane heading SE. In 900 feet, make a left turn to stay on Bobcat Lane. The road heads more to the south. At 6.3 from SH 9, turn right onto Mountain View Drive, which is at the crest of a ridge. Proceed another 1.4 mile past private properties to the end of the road and park. An old single-track road heading off to the NW is the trail to begin on.
There is private property all the way in on the drive to the trailhead. We would not recommend camping in this area. You could possibly "car camp" at the trailhead, but there would be no privacy because of residential dwellings close by. If you don't mind packing in some gear a short distance, you could walk up the trail a bit and find a place to pitch a tent. There's plenty of level ground.
The closest National Forest Campgrounds are the Horseshoe and Fourmile CG's located up CR 18 which leads to the trailhead for Mt. Sherman. CR 18 is south of the US 285/SH9 intersection in Fairplay by about 1.4 mile. You'll need to turn left onto CR18 to reach these campgrounds. Those campgrounds are typically full on summer weekends. If you attempt to camp at-large anywhere else in the vicinity, please respect private property.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2010
From the trailhead, hike NW about 100 yards along the old road track and then veer off on a cairn marked trail that leads into sparse trees and willows. Continue on the trail as it leaves the last trees and begin ascending on tundra slopes. As you hike along, you may notice little markers in the tundra, left possibly for some kind of tundra/climate study. Please do not disturb these. The trail cuts through willows - almost all of which are low and pose little problem in getting through. At about 11,900 feet, the trail ascends to another bench–like area along the SE ridge and begins to fade out. Continue in a WNW direction, just following the ridge as it ascends more steeply beginning at about 12,200 ft. Almost all the hiking to the summit is on tundra with just a few rocky areas thrown in. In fairly short time, if you stay on the ridge, you will crest the 12,871 marker along the ridge. Drop down a little (about 200 feet in elevation loss) and cross the broad basin over to the summit. Along the way, you will see quite a few mining ruins and also as you approach the summit. Except for the final hike to the summit, it is almost all on tundra/grass. This entire excursion is in our thinking a class 1 hike – very easy. About the only excitement is the view NW from the summit where it drops precipitously down. You can also enjoy a nice view of London Mountain, across the way – perhaps your next destination for the day?
It's also possible and relatively easy to head over from Pennsylvania Mtn. to the WSW by way of an adjoining ridge and hike to Mt. Evans B and/or Dyer Mtn. The largest part of this hike would still be on tundra with some other typical rubble & scree thrown in.
For a return trip, just follow your ascent route back. Our time: We left our car at 9:00 AM, made the summit by 10:10, and were back at the car by 11:15, all the while, just taking our time and not hurrying at all, but we did not have kids with us.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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