I skipped a hike. I don’t know how it happened, but I did. Back in early August 2021, Chelsea and I summitted 13er Hagar Mountain together. When I got home, I recorded it in my hike spreadsheet. I even started writing this post. But somehow, I never actually finished the write up or uploaded it to WordPress… a fact I didn’t realize until I was sorting through some photos last week.
So this is a little (okay, a lot) out of chronological order, but here we go… Hagar Mountain. Pronounced ‘hay-gar’ or ‘hay-gur’ I assume, but I actually have no idea.
Hagar Mountain is on the Continental Divide, just north of I-70. The parking area for this route is not marked as a trailhead; as you emerge from the Eisenhower Tunnel traveling westbound, there is a pullout/chain station that usually has a handful of semis in it. However, hiker parking is allowed in areas without “no parking” signs.
From here, the our hike began on a service road that eventually turns into the Divide Trail (not to be confused with the Continental Divide Trail). The Divide Trail meanders through a meadow, roughly paralleling Straight Creek. Numerous smaller streams were flowing across the trail, and we found ourselves dodging quite a bit of water.
One of the creek crossings was dotted with little yellow flowers. Upon closer inspection, we realized they were monkey flowers. We’d actually had a conversation about monkey flowers on our previous hike, discussing how neat they are and that Chelsea had never seen one. We wondered if they grew in Colorado. Apparently, the answer is yes!
A little while later, still on the topic of wildflowers, I mentioned I hadn’t seen one of my favorite alpine flowers yet this year: sky pilot. As we neared the summit of Hagar Mountain, sure enough, there were dozens of sky pilots growing amongst the rocks.
We also spotted a few Arctic gentians, which I’d never seen before. All in all, it was a successful hike in terms of wildflowers.
It was also a successful hike in terms of summitting Hagar Mountain. I’ve kind of gone on a tangent here, so let’s get back to the hiking part of the day. After a little less than a mile (1.6 km), the Divide Trail doubles back on itself. At this point, we continued roughly straight ahead on an unmaintained but visible trail toward the back of the Straight Creek drainage. Eventually we veered off this trail too, as it curved to the west. We continued north, climbing straight up a short but steep slope to the ridge. It was from here that we had our first view of Hagar Mountain.
From this point on, it was an off-trail navigation kind of hike. At times there was a vague path, and our route was fairly intuitive. Nonetheless, it was somewhat of a new experience for me. Up to this point, I hadn’t done a lot of off-trail hiking. As someone who was well-trained at a young age to always stay on the trail, it’s a weird feeling to just be walking across the tundra. I did my best to step on dirt and rocks when I could, but there were times where that wasn’t possible. I found myself wanting to apologize to all the plants that ended up beneath my feet.
Chelsea had chosen this particular peak for us because a small section near the summit is rated class 3… a first for both of us, if I recall correctly. Class 3 is scrambling requiring the use of hands and, in this case, there was a little bit of exposure as well. It was nice to be able to help each other with route-finding and spotting when necessary and, together, we navigated this short section to reach the summit!
(And then navigated our way back down it, which was more challenging than climbing up.)
Once off the rocky summit, it was then just a simple matter of retracing our steps back to the car. Mostly simple. Walking across an angled slope is difficult on the ankles, and dropping from the ridge back to the trail was very steep as well. But it was a fairly straight-forward journey.
The air quality wasn’t the best on this particular day, something that has, sadly, become fairly typical for Colorado in the summer. I seem to recall that it deteriorated quite substantially the next day, and I actually didn’t hike again for a couple weeks because of this. So I’m glad we were able to squeeze this one in without inhaling too much smoke.
I may never actually know how to pronounce it, but at least I can say I’ve climbed it. Hagar Mountain: check!
The Important Stuff
- Getting there: the trailhead is located immediately west of the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70. When traveling westbound, pull off to the right as soon as you exit the tunnel. If traveling eastbound, take the exit just before the tunnel entrance which will take you around to the parking area on the westbound side of the road (Google maps calls it the MM 213 Westbound Chain Station)
- Fees and passes: none
- Hiking: this is a mostly off-trail hike that can be done as an out-and-back or as a loop hike to incorporate some of the adjacent peaks. We did the out-and-back version, approximately following the route shown here; for us it was 6 miles (9.6 km) with just over 2500 feet (765 m) of elevation gain
- Where to stay: we did this as a day hike from Denver, but closer lodging (camping, hotels, etc.) can be found in Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, or Georgetown
- Other: as is always the case on a hike like this, keep a close eye on the weather to avoid being caught out in the open (this entire hike is above tree line) in a thunderstorm