• Activities:

    Photography, Running, Hiking, Fitness

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1800 Feet

Easy Parking
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Hike to the summit of one of Colorado's most iconic peaks on the Continental Divide

This hike starts at the Mitchell Lake trailhead in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area - keep in mind that during the Summer months its a $10 entry fee to drive directly to the parking lot at the trailhead. If you choose not to spend $10 dollars you can park at the first parking lot and hike the well marked trail to Mitchell Lake (it's about two miles).

You'll head towards Mitchell Lake on a well maintained and mostly flat trail while occasionally crossing a stream inlet or two. Keep an eye out for wildlife like fox, deer, owl's, and while I've never seen a Moose I've seen evidence of their passing. 

Once you hit Mitchell Lake you'll continue on the trail a bit south and west towards Blue Lake. Enjoy the willows, the ponds, the way that the krummholz will pop against all that solid granite. You'll see a cone mountain rising above as you start to walk due West and that is Mt. Toll, your objective.

Once you hit Blue Lake stay to the right on a reasonably marked social trail. Please note though, that if you find yourself climbing above the lake into the thick brush you have done something wrong. I know this by experience. Stop, look down to the shore of the lake and the social trail should be easy to spot. Bushwhack your way down to the trail and continue to the back of Blue Lake, pausing to enjoy its deep cerulean blue. 

Now the fun starts and the marked trail stops. This is basically a choose your own adventure route from this point but some general pointers help. Continue around the shore of Blue Lake and start climbing upwards heading South for a bit. Your objective is West but I've found a bit of southerly elevation gain serves you well here. It's a judgment call when you turn to your right/West but at some point start heading to the base of the steep, scree filled slope to the West. You should be able to see Upper Blue Lake to your right, and feel free to explore. It's almost always filled with some combination of snow and ice. 

Finally, at the base of the scree filled slope you just start climbing. There is nothing technical here, but it can be annoying to hike up one step and slide down two. Eventually you make it to the ridge line and congrats, you are on the Continental Divide! Look to your right and the 12,979 foot tall summit is obvious.

Scramble your way up another 500-600 feet of gain to the top and enjoy your 360 degree views of everything from Rocky Mountain National Park to the North, to Grand Lake to the West, potentially Denver International Airport to the East, and Eldora to the South. Enjoy the summit and then scramble on down the way you came feeling content that you almost assuredly had one of the coolest peaks in the Front Range all to yourself.  

Pack List

  • Snacks & water
  • A light puffy
  • First aid kit
  • Hat & gloves
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Charles Buscemi

My day job consists of helping 1s and 0s find their way around the internet, but my passion is finding my way to the great outdoors. Lover of dogs, mountains, snow, coffee, and beer; i'm always planning my next trip outside.

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