Peak(s):  Pennsylvania Mtn  -  13,006 feet
Date Posted:  12/12/2017
Date Climbed:   12/12/2017
Author:  Trotter
 Pennsylvania Mtn from Pika Trail TH   

Theres very few trip reports on Pennsylvania Mtn (despite it being one of the lowest and easiest 13ers), so I thought I would add one from the new Pika Trail TH that the Mountain Area Land Trust built recently. To get there, here are the directions from their website. Note, even though the google maps address lists it as Leadville (when its on the Alma side of the range), google maps puts you perfectly on the TH.

Directions to the Pika Trail
From Fairplay:
Head northwest on Highway 9 and continue 1,8 miles.
Left on Sacramento Creek Road and continue 4.9 miles.
Right on County Road 14A and continue 1.3 miles
Right on Purnes Place, use 2nd entrance to Prunes Place and continue 0.6 miles.
First Right onto Hermit Court/Prune Court and continue 0.1 miles.
Park at sharp bend in Hermit Court/Prune Court, 858 Prunes Place, Fairplay, CO 80440.

Using Google Maps?
If you are using Google Maps, please use the following address to get to the Mountain Area Land Trust's property and the Pika Trailhead,
741 Hermit Court
Leadville, CO 80461

The trailhead is a pull out and a small lot off the side of the road. Its marked with "858" as the address, and there is a small sign that designates it as the correct TH. Park county roads guy told me that they plow the roads you use to get to the trailhead all winter. When I went, the roads were plowed, but they were gravel and icy. But still very 2WD safe, just have to be careful.


So once I got there, I headed off onto the trail. The trail is marked by blue diamond markers on the trees, spaced about every 100 yards or so.
First 50 yards of trail

The trail was well broken, however, many people had clearly went off trail. I spent a few minutes following several sets of footprints that ended up heading the wrong direction. And then I started postholing about knee deep. So I turned back, and located a blue diamond after some more postholing. I really wish I had brought my snowshoes here. After getting back on track, I stayed with the main trail for about 0.8 miles.

Good trench

In the areas without snow, the trail was clearly well built and looked to be class 1. Once I started breaking treeline, I hit three cairns.
First cairn at treeline

The third cairn is the important one, its the turnoff for Pennsylvania mountain. It splits, and the right trail heads towards the summit. I THINK the left trail puts you back into the neighborhood at a different road.

3rd cairn for turnoff

Turnoff for Pennsylvania

Head for the southeast ridgeline, there was quite a bit of patchy snow but at least up here it was only a couple inches deep. There are quite a few willow patches also, but by heading towards the ridgeline you avoid most of them. I also found the trail went very faint, but there were occasional cairns and previous footprints. In any case, the route at this point is obvious, head for the first bump on the ridge (PT 12,142)

Heading for ridge

At the top of the first bump, keep heading upwards.

First bump on ridge

Looking north, you can see some active mining on the north side of pennsylvania. I did some research, and Pennsylvania has been mined for gold since the late 1800s until the present day. In 1938 they found an 11 ounce nugget, and in 1990, a 8 ounce nugget called the Turtle nugget.
Active mining to north

There are also several old prospect mines scattered along the ridge.
Mining dig

So after hitting the first bump, I continued upwards towards the next one
False summit

Then I found about 50 small metal tags that were firmly nailed into the ground. I think they must be for environmental studies, as I found out that Pennsylvania mountain is used for that frequently. Maybe someone can tell me what they mean... marking individual plants that grew here?

Metal tags?

Onward I plodded, thankful for the nice tundra. It reminded me of Mt Helen, with its continual steady slope.

More uphill

Right as I reach the top of the slope and see a cairn, I think wow that was easy. But then I see the real summit lies about a half mile further away. I was on point 12,871.

False summit

Staying on the south side of the plateau, I followed a few cairns towards the real summit.
Heading towards real summit

Near the real summit, there are some ruins of mining buildings, and another pit.
Mining ruins

The real summit is a very broad and boring spot, but at least it had a nice windbreak built, but it was filled in with snow.


Looking north, one gets a good view of London, Buckskin and Loveland mountains.
Looking north

Looking southwest, theres a good view of Gemini, Dyer, and Evans B.
Looking southwest

The wind was pretty strong at the summit, so I didn't stay long. I decided to head straight across on the descent, bypassing point 12,871 and the 100 feet of regain. I contoured below the point, and regained with the southeast ridge. I also enjoyed a few glissades on the way down.

Heading back, shortcut

Next to some ruins, I found an interesting piece of metal. Marked "Navy" I assume it was a can of navy beans enjoyed by some miners. Of course, it could be a piece of a navy ship that somehow ended up in colorado
Bean can?

I headed back down, enjoying the beautiful weather for Colorado mid December. Heres an approximate map of the trail, I took off the parts where I bumbled around in the woods. Total distance was 5.8 miles and 1,600 feet of gain. I would highly recommend this hike as a good place to take friends/family who can't hike more strenuous 13ers or 14ers, or just as a nice easy hike. The trail (when it was not under snow) looks very class 1. And once off the trail, its very nice class 1 tundra hiking with a few short stretches of class 2 talus.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Very nice...
12/12/2017 21:06
A very nice read, Trotter!


Many thanks for sharing
12/25/2017 10:24
Many thanks for sharing your illustrative report with me! That certainly encourages me to try a winter ascent to the mountain sometime in February when the daylight hours increase.

Thanks for the details
05/28/2018 21:32
The details about this climb and the pictures are great. Did this hike on Memorial Day and only saw 4 other people and they all came from the other direction as we were the only car parked at the beginning of this way up. We couldnât find the trail after the picture âœheading for ridge❠above but saw a guy coming towards us so followed his footsteps. Lots of willows and some snow to deal with but once we got out of the willows we just went straight up following some cairns. Iâm guessing this is a relatively new trail as there is the framework of a big new sign at the beginning and that itâll be better marked through the willows later this year.

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