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Valley of the Blue, Summit County, Colorado, USA

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoThe Blue River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 65 miles or 105 kilometers long, in the state of Colorado.

It rises in southern Summit County, on the western side of the continental divide in the Ten Mile Range, near Quandary Peak.

It flows to the north past the towns of Blue River and Breckenridge, then through the Dillon Reservoir near Dillon - some of the most beautiful forested areas of the state.

The west portal for the Roberts Tunnel is at the base of Dillon Reservoir. The Roberts Tunnel is a trans-basin diversion, built by Denver Water in 1962, that diverts water under the Continental Divide from the Colorado River basin into the South Platte River Basin.

The east portal is approximately one mile upstream of Grants, Colorado. North of Dillon, the river flows north-northwest along the eastern slope of the Gore Range and joins the Colorado River at Kremmling. Water management in the area is top notch.

The Green Mountain Dam, 13 miles or 21 kilometers upstream from Kremmling, forms the Green Mountain Reservoir, providing hydroelectric power and diversionary water for irrigation, as a part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

The dam was a project of the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Major snowfall typically occurs January through April. Most of the annual stream flow results from snow melting during the spring and early summer.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoThunderstorms produce significant rainfall in July and August. Groundwater return flows to streams contribute about a quarter of the total surface flow.

The permanent year-round population of Summit County back in 2008 was between 28,000 and 29,000. The resident population has increased an average of 7% a year for the last nine years.

During peak tourist visits - typically around the Christmas, New Year and Spring Break periods. In the peak visit periods the population can increase to over 150,000 - creating an added burden on drinking water and wastewater providers.

All municipal water is effectively treated so there is not a water quality concern in the Blue River Watershed.

In 1974, the Colorado Department of Health extensively evaluated problems in the Blue River Watershed as part of the Blue River Basin 303(e) Plan.

The principal problems included the need for phosphorus removal capability at wastewater treatment facilities to protect Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoirs from accelerated eutrophication and the feasible extent of providing service to relatively rural parts of the basin.

Since the adoption of the basin plan in 1974 and the 1978 version of the 208 Plan, the development of wastewater treatment facilities has generally proceeded on track in accordance with the recommendations.

If an area has water that is suffering - then the entire eco system suffers. Summit County works hard to insure this does not happen in Summit County.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoFacility plans under Section 201 of the Clean Water Act have defined the precise treatment mechanisms and locations for wastewater treatment and have implemented the recommendations of both the 208 and basin plans.

The town of Blue River, a riverside community, is nearly an extension of Breckenridge. It is situated just south of Breckenridge on County Highway-9 heading south over Hoosier Pass toward Fairplay.

In 2020 the population was 918. The town is home to a mix of permanent residences and vacation homes. It is located close to 14,270-foot Quandary Peak and the headwaters of the Blue River. It sits at an elevation of 10,036 feet in Summit County.

Blue River - The high-elevation river is a beautiful place for all types of outdoor recreation. There are plenty of public access points to take advantage of the great trout fishing.

Rafting, kayaking, and paddleboarding have also become popular pursuits in the warmer months.

Camping at Kite Lake Campground is 35 minutes from the town of Blue River and offers great access to Kite Lake Trail which summits 4 14 thousand foot peaks in one loop. There are only 5 official tent sites here, each with a picnic table and fire pit.

Lower McCollough Gulch trailhead is near the south end of town, and is about a 6 mile roundtrip.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoOnce the snow melts, there is a beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail and numerous scenic vistas to enjoy along the way. It can be technically challenging - so be prepared.

The town of Blue River only has individual rentals for accommodation. However, Breckenridge has plenty of hotels and luxury options only a short distance away.

The 2.3 million-acre White River National Forest is located in central Colorado. There’s much to do within this wonderful area, including visiting the Maroon Bells, Green Mountain Reservoir, and the 11 world-famous ski resorts that operate within the forest.

Aspen, Vail, and Silverthorne make excellent basecamps to explore the White River National Forest.

Most famous for the high, sharp peaks of the Gore Range - Eagles Nest Wilderness attracts hikers and backpackers from all over the country. It boasts challenging trails leading to peaks with breathtaking views.

The summits of the wilderness can reach up to 12,000 feet high, with most of them freezing over the winter. The melting snow coming from the peaks during spring replenishes the flow of the Colorado River nearby.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoBackpacking, hiking and backcountry skiing are definitely the main attractions of the area. The Gore Range peaks run from north to south, which means most visitors will have to hike through the designated passes in order to get from east to west.

The wilderness is also home to several alpine lakes which are prime for fishing, but the U.S. Forest Service notes that these areas are being negatively impacted by the heavy human abuse.

When visiting these wilderness areas visitors are required to follow the 'Leave No Trace' admonition - meaning that anything and everything anyone brings with them to the area MUST be taken with them when they leave the area.

Special restrictions include packing out human waste and trash, keeping dogs on leashes, and camping and building fires at least 100 feet away from trails, streams, and rivers.

Vail, Frisco, and Silverthorne are the closest towns to the wilderness with many popular trails into the wilderness easily accessible from them.

I lived in the Valley of the Blue south of Breckinridge and right at the base of Hoosier Pass back in the 1970's when there were only a few houses built there.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoOff the pass, the water from Hoosier Pass came by our rental house - a three story condo that could sleep a dozen skiers during ski season.

Just around the side of the house and only a few meters away were 3 beaver ponds that I was able to pull brook trout from every day.

Spread out in front of the house was several more ponds that surrounded an old log miners cabin from the 1800's - it's ceiling only about four feet off the ground so that it was quick to warm in wintertime.

Fishing was always great and there were old dirt roads everywhere up the mountainside - plenty of hiking and camping spots easily found.

Valley of the Blue in the late 70's was a haven for anyone who loved being outdoors and was not particularly interested in large crowds or the sounds related to living in a city.

Just over Hoosier Pass, the tiny town of Alma sat - I think it's population back then was maybe 10 or 12 people.

Now days with the success of the ski area and the explosive growth all over Colorado, much of the Valley of the Blue I remember is long gone. It has been taken over by commercial activity catering to the tourism and skiing industries.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoThe Troll Trail in Breckenridge is a family favorite. This short hike is great for the young and old. The hike to the troll is .25 miles long on a flat trail.

With Breckenridge's extensive trail system, it is very easy to make this hike longer if you want more of a challenge.

Once you get to the end of the Troll Trail, you will see the 15-foot tall, recycled art piece named Isak.

You can park at the welcome center and complete a 15-minute walk to the trailhead or park in the Stephen C. West Ice Arena which is right next to the trailhead.

Once you get to the Illinois Gulch Trail Head, turn right immediately onto the Trollstigen Trail and stay on the Illinois Gulch and Southside Trail.

It is recommended getting to Isak before 10 am or after 5 pm to avoid large crowds as this is an extremely popular trail.

Then there is Boreas pass - a mellow trail with incredible views of Breckenridge. It is a 2.5-mile loop with a 396-foot elevation gain that doubles as a road in the summer.

If furry friends are a part of your family, this is a great hike for them but they must be kept on a leash. If you want to see wildlife, this trail often delivers.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoMoose, fox, and hawks frequent the area. Just remember to give the wildlife their space. Boreas pass is closed to cars from October to May.

If you drive the whole pass, you will be brought to Black Powder Pass which is another great hike but is more challenging than Boreas Pass.

Breckenridge is no longer a ski area built up around the remnants of the gold rush camp of the 1800's. It is a combination of acommodation, eateries and a lion's share of breweries and shopping opportunities.

It also offers numerous bicycling options where visitors can rent a bicycle ride over the mountains and be transported back to their starting point on a shuttle.

The Vail Pass shuttle allows for bikers to ride down from the 10,666-foot mountain pass at the Continental Divide on the Vail Pass Recreation Path past Copper Mountain and Tenmile Canyon into Frisco.

Upon arriving in Frisco, renters can drop off their bikes at the rental agencies special drop-off location at Abbey's Coffee on the Main Street in Frisco and then get on the free Summit Stage bus back to the shop.

Bikers looking for more of a challenge can bike the 10 miles and 600 feet of elevation difference back to Breckenridge.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoIf cycling down from Vail Pass seems a little hefty, you can ride from Breckenridge to Frisco - a popular 10.5 mile, downhill bike path.

But, if you know anything about the area then you will also be aware of where you can go and still find pristine nature and loads of spectacular scenery.

The Breckenridge Welcome Center is on Main Street. The Breckenridge Welcome Center is at the plaza's corner and is a good place to learn about the town's history, create an itinerary for shopping, dining or sightseeing as well as inquire of locals about the unspoiled locations in the area.

Located across from Main Street and Washington Avenue, Blue River Plaza is the heart of downtown Breckenridge.

Since it is right in the middle of downtown, it is also a great spot to find local entertainment venues and events or just relax in the sun, or shade during summer, as the river rushes by.

From the Breckenridge Welcome Center, walk south along the river to visit the Alpine Garden and the Dredge.

Cross the Blue River to find various performing arts events at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center or head over to Main Street to check out the Summit Ski Museum.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoBreckenridge, Colorado is one of the most popular winter sports resorts in the United States.

But what truly sets Breckenridge in it's own class apart is the fact that it Is a friendly town built out of an authentic gold mining camp location in a small mountain town.

With 300 days of sunshine and 300 inches or 7.62 meters of snowfall yearly and a pristine location in the Colorado rockies, it delivers exactly what visitors are looking for.

The former mining town of Breckenridge includes the largest historical district in Colorado.

The Breckenridge ski resort, a two-hour drive west of Denver International Airport, was already substantial, but the recent addition of Peak 6 is said to be the biggest ski resort expansion in North America in more than a decade.

The extra 543 skiable acres not only feature high-alpine steep terrain but also intermediate bowl skiing, a rare find in North America.

Breckenridge's ski terrain, base elevation of 9,603 feet or 2,927 meters now spans nearly 3,000 acres or 12 square kilometers with 187 trails that are quite varied, so you can go from steeps to trees to groomers, all in the same run.

Also the 22-foot super pipe and 11 bowls have turned this ski resort into a massive winter playground - drawing professional freestyle skiers and snowboarders to train at Breckenridge's four world class terrain parks.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoOne of Breckenridge's big pluses is the Imperial Express SuperChair which ascends to an elevation of 12,840 feet or 3914 meters within 100 vertical feet or 30.5 meters of Peak 8 summit - making it the highest chairlift in North America.

This Summit County winter sports town has earned a reputation as top destination for skiing and snowboarding for children aas well.

"Breckenridge is really committed to making the experience enjoyable for families with kids." A Colorado mom and her husband come up from the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado., several times every season with their two daughters.

"There are areas on the mountain where you can take kids and not worry about them getting run over."

Alpine skiing is not the only activity attracting visitors to Breckenridge. Head to the Breckenridge Nordic Center for cross-country skiing, guided snowshoe adventures - four times daily as well as in the evenings when there's a full moon, igloo building or a sleigh ride in the White River National Forest.

Racing down the mountain on 2,500 feet or 762 meters of coaster track on the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, Breckenridge's alpine slide, is yet another great adventure.

Or, for a scenic powder ride, drive a snowmobile over the Continental Divide - the demarcation line separating all watersheds in the United States.

Rafting the Blue River is also popular through late spring to early summer seasons. The Upper Blue River has some class III and IV rapids and begins near the Blue River Campground. The Lower Blue River is after that with both Class II and III rapids.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - Colorado

Breckenridge is world famous for numerous activities in the snow. But once here, visitors are instantly calmed down by the low-key locals. "This is more of a normal town and not a tourist trap, and visitors love the atmosphere". according to the town visitors bureau.

Breckendridge Welcome Center (203 S. Main St.), built around one of the original log cabins, is also part historical museum, featuring displays on life in early-day Breckenridge.

Besides the Mountain Top Children's Museum at 605 S. Park Avenue, there is the Summit Ski Museum at 308-B S. Main St. which celebrates Breckenridge as the first ski town in Colorado and highlights the first century of skiing in Summit Country, from 1860 to 1960.

Guided tours offered by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance include a Historic Walking Tour and even a Ski Through History Tour where participants can join a local expert for an afternoon of skiing or snowboarding and learn about the colorful history of skiing at Breckenridge.

Breckenridge Central Reservations is the town's premier booking service for lodging, activities, lift tickets, equipment rentals and more.

Valley of the Blue - Summit County - ColoradoThe Blue River also offers Gold Medal fishing! The trophy fishing area is located downstream from the Dillion Dam and runs all the way to Kremmling.

Anglers can hope to catch both rainbow trout and brown trout in these shallow waters.

Check regulations, most is fly fishing or artificial lures only. Trout love this river because the bottom is made up of gravel. Anglers can access the river anywhere on public land and many parking areas are available along Highway 9

With Ski Free Stay Free Packages, usually available through the entire season, you pay for three nights or more and get one free or pay for three days of skiing or more and get one day free. Breckenridge gets very busy over spring break as ski season ends in April.

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