Climbing Mount Royal (10,502 feet) to reach the summits of Mount Victoria (11,775 feet) and Peak One (12,933) is a popular and convenient day hike for visitors to Frisco. Although the two-mile hike up Mount Royal is a relatively easy ascent of only 1,300 feet, be forewarned that the trail is on a steep incline over slippery terrain for much of this distance.
On the route, do not depart from well-established trails (there are several side trails along the way), and avoid descending onto the cliffs on the north and west faces of Mount Royal. Many hikers have been rescued from technical routes on the slopes of Mount Royal after being cliffed-out on deceptively easy descents. If early-season snow has fallen, be prepared to wear crampons or micro-spikes to maintain a grip on the slippery inclined plane.
Mount Victoria is a moderately difficult summit to reach, with a good trail leading to the exposed ridge a few feet above tree line, found only 2,700 vertical feet above the trailhead three miles away. The views of the Blue River Valley, Ptarmigan Wilderness and Eagles Nest Wilderness from the summit are very rewarding compensation for the effort.
The longer, nearly 10-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Peak One is a much more strenuous climb of 3,800 feet, with terrain that includes loose rock on very steep slopes. Ascending easy 14ers in the area — such as Quandary, Grays and Torreys peaks — is safer and less dangerous than attempting to gain the summit of Peak One.
From the Peaks Trail parking area at 9,100 feet, head west on an unmarked trail and turn left at the first trail junction to wrap around the east face of Mount Royal. After another fifteen minutes, about a half-mile from the trailhead, bear right and ascend west, crossing two creeks before meeting the Masontown Trail (U.S Forest Service #9077). Continue west up the Masontown Trail until you find the tailings piles marking the old mining town at the junction with the Mount Royal Trail (U.S. Forest Service #1) at 1 mile and 9,490 feet.
Masontown was an ill-fated mining community centered on an ore-processing mill, established in 1866 on the avalanche pathway in the eastern gulch of Mount Royal. By 1872, the site included a boardinghouse, cabins and milling facilities. A railway reached the base of Mount Royal by 1882, allowing for easy transportation of gold and silver ores to Denver. By the turn of the century, Masontown, like most mining operations in Summit County, was a ghost town. In 1912, a deep, unstable snowpack slid off of Mount Royal, burying Masontown. Today, all that remains of Masontown are a few bricks and mine tailings covered with young aspen trees, which rise up quickly after avalanches sweep mountain slopes bare.
Beyond Masontown, follow the straight, steep incline on the Mount Royal Trail west to the junction, where the trail divides at 10,250 feet. Bear right for the Mount Royal overlook and turn left to the summit of Mount Victoria. From the top of Mount Royal, find excellent access for viewing the south end of the Gore Range. Heading south on the climb to Mount Victoria, the trail passes the remains of a mining cabin with walls still stacked seven logs high.
After three total hours of climbing, the trail winds to the top of Mount Victoria, with great views of Buffalo Mountain, Red Peak and Uneva Peak to the northwest, Peak One to the south, and the Frisco community beside Dillon Reservoir to the northeast.
During the descent from the summits, the Mount Royal Trail can be taken from Masontown. Along the way, there is a turn-off to the trail heading east to the Peaks Trail parking area. Alternatively, the Mount Royal Trail continues down to the recreation path, where turning right on the recreation path leads back to the parking circle.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take Exit 206 from Interstate 70 to the west end of Main Street and drive east to Second Avenue. Turn right (heading south) and continue to the intersection with South Cabin Green Trail. Proceed carefully cross the paved, non-motorized recreation path and park in the circle beyond the “Zach’s Place” bench. A connecting trail to the Mount Royal Trail departs west from the parking area, rising to join either of two optional trails that wrap southeast around Mount Royal.
Map: Trails Illustrated, Vail, Frisco, Dillon, 108. Latitude 40° Summit County Colorado Trails.
Author Kim Fenske has written extensively on hiking trails throughout Colorado. His writing includes, “Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties,” and “Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness,” available from Amazon Kindle Books.