McCullough Gulch Trail is known for its waterfalls and above timberline lakes. It’s quite spectacular and is very crowded during peak season. McCullough Gulch Trail is breathtaking from the beginning and is as good as it gets!


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Our day began in late October after a few snowfalls and with only a few hikers about, yippee!

I’m hiking today with my sister-in-law who’s never been on a trail heading towards timberline. It’s so exciting to show her she can do it and how empowering it feels when reaching the top!

The Trailhead is ½ mile from where you park, which adds another mile to the 2.7 miles out and back hike to the first lake, Upper Blue Reservoir.


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At the Trailhead, we began hiking up an old mining road on a pretty steep incline through lovely dense snow-covered pines…



 … then reaching a bridge crossing the creek.


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Not long and the forest opens up and we are passing an old miners cabin sitting among panoramic views of some of Colorado’s highest peaks.

NOTE: dispersed backcountry camping is permitted. Contact White River National Forest for latest fire restrictions and camping regulations.


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This is only the beginning, some of Colorado’s most stunning scenery is still to come. Perfect stopping point to take a breath before we begin hiking to the falls.



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Soon the trail becomes a rocky narrow path through the alpine and reaches White Falls Loop. (a short trail leading to the falls and back to the main trail).


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Cascading through large boulders is White Falls.

(I’ve seen the Falls in the summer and it’s impressive) but today it’s frozen with small trickles of water making its way down.

Lots of rocky terrains here to plant yourself for a snack or break.




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A lot of hikers turn back at White Falls Loop, especially those with kids. It’s a great stopping point. However, the trail leading to Upper Blue Lake after the falls is Colorado at its best.




Hiking to the first lake we found ourselves on a much steeper, rockier, sometimes slippery trail leading above timberline before reaching Upper Blue Lake.

Challenging, yet exhilarating.


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Coming upon Upper Blue Lake, we find it’s frozen and the tundra covered in snow. Surrounded by 14, 265 ft. Quandary Peak to its north and 13,950 ft. Pacific Peak to its south, it’s breathtaking.

The views at Upper Blue Lake are over the top.



Now at close to 12,000 ft in elevation, it’s windy, it’s cold and it’s stunning. 


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It’s amazing hiking above the tree line. Not everyone gets the opportunity to experience this!

Hiking back down the snow had melted in some areas and froze again in spots making the trail a bit trickier. There were more icy areas among the trees and on several log crossings. 

Please me mindful of the weather, Colorado is extremely unpredictable, especially at high elevations.


A trail you want to be prepared for with appropriate hiking gear. Please check out What’s in Your Day Packfor a list of recommended items anytime hiking.

Snowshoes were not needed today, but we did put our crampons on our hiking boots, which made it much easier on the icier uphill ascents and especially on the downhill trek.





Shuttles will run from the Quandary Peak trailhead to McCullough Gulch trailhead and back.

Hikers will need to reserve a parking spot at Quandary Peak trailhead (Make a reservation on or take the Quandary Peak Shuttle from Breckenridge (located at Airport Road parking lot) to the Quandary Peak lot in order to catch the McCullough Gulch shuttle.

Reserved parking is in three-hour shifts beginning at 4 a.m. Parking spots cost $5 and are open only to McCullough Gulch hikers.

Violators will be ticketed or towed.


Approximately 7 miles south of Breckenridge on Hwy 9, turn right onto Blue Lakes Reservoir Rd. (#850). Make an immediate right into the parking area for Quandary Peak Trailhead. 



2.7 miles out and back from trailhead + a half mile trek to the Trailhead making it 3.7 miles.

Rated: moderate, consider its an uphill trek with lots of rocks and steep areas at high altitude.

Start Elevation: 11,100 ft. Elevation gain: 1,578 ft.

2 portable restrooms at the overflow parking lot for Quandary Peak

Dog friendly

Popular for snowshoeing: Contact Dillon Park Ranger District for Trail conditions.


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Drop a comment below for any questions. Share your adventures with me. I’d love to hear from you, HAPPY TRAILS…

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