Early one Thursday morning in late June, my daughter and I turned onto the dirt road directly across the highway from the Columbine General Store. The reviews we’d read didn’t exaggerate about the deeply rutted road. Jolting and jouncing, we at last catapulted over a steep rise and into the small parking area. I was grateful that my SUV earned its title on that trek. Compared with the approach, the trailhead parking was luxurious - a peaceful and empty patch surrounded by evergreens. More importantly, it was flat.
We headed up the lovely alpine trail, with plenty of gorgeous views - nothing but mountains to the west as far as the eye could see. Once we hit the talus field on the ridge at the top, my acrophobia kicked in. My go-to in these fear-of-height situations is to drop down to a pseudo-crawl and speak words of encouragement to myself. Works well for getting to the top, and is pure hilarity for my daughter - I heard her quietly snickering and turned to see her taking a stealth video of her nutty mom.
The Hahns Peak Lookout is such a cool structure. The view of Steamboat Lake and the 360’ surrounding mountains was fabulous. It was especially lovely to see Pearl Lake from here. The rest of this summer, while on my Pearl Lake paddles, I’ve gazed at the Hahns Peak Lookout lit up by the sunrise, and think of the fun we had that morning.
Hahns Peak Specs
Elevation is 10,839’ above sea level (the 1972 US Geological Survey says “about 10,840 feet” and in a Google search several different elevations were listed, which I found both interesting and strange).
The mountain is an extinct volcano.
Was known by trappers back in the day as “Old Baldy.”
A Little History
What is now known as Routt County was the summer hunting grounds for the Indigenous Ute Tribes, and possibly the Cheyenne and Eastern Shoshone as well (Interactive Map Native Land Digital: maps Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages - you can type in your address to determine which Indigenous Peoples originally lived there.)
Eventually trappers, explorers and gold miners made their way to the region. That’s where Joseph Hahn comes in - he found gold in the vicinity of present-day Hahns Peak.
The story is that three men, Hahn, Doyle and Way, were prospecting and winter set in. Way was dispatched to get supplies and return - he left, taking with him all the gold in camp, and was not heard from again. After surviving until April, Doyle and Hahn set out on snowshoes. They made it to the banks of the Muddy Creek on April 30, 1867, near Kremmling. The two men sat down for a rest, and this is where Hahn collapsed and died.
Steamboat Pilot Article Sidebar: Mysterious Fate of Joseph Hahn
Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection: Hahns Peak Monument to Man Who Perished After Gold Discovery
Hahns Peak Lookout
The Hahns Peak Lookout started as a stone shelter when in 1908 it was commissioned by the Forest Service as a fire lookout. Between 1908 and 1912 people and horses packed up concrete, local stone and timber to construct the building. (Colorado Preservation: Hahns Peak Lookout)
The lookout was decommissioned in the 1940s or 1950s, and fell into disrepair. In 2014 it was listed as one of Colorado Preservation’s “Colorado’s Most Endangered Places.” Between 2014 and 2017 the lookout was restored as part of a joint project with Historic Routt County, USDA Forest Service, Historicorps and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. (Historic Routt County Hahns Peak Lookout)
Hahns Peak Village
Hahns Peak Village began as a gold mining camp, and had the first post office in Routt County. It is the oldest permanent settlement in Routt County, and served as the county seat from 1877-1912. The schoolhouse, opened in 1912, held its last class in 1943.
Hahns Peak Area Historical Society
Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Travel: Hahns Peak
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT