Pacific Tarn Trail is a 6.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Breckenridge, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length6.5 miElevation gain2,362 ftRoute typeLoop
HikingNature tripsDog friendlyViewswild-flowersWildlife
Description
Waypoints (0)

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (20)
Photos (978)
Recordings (12)
Completed (59)
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Brent Tilley
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HikingGreat!

Did this hike second weekend of October. Weather was sunny and cool (low 30s when we started). Parts of the hike were very windy, so I would recommend bringing layers and a wind breaker if you have one. We started the hike a little before 8:30 and we may have seen two other groups on the way up, which was really nice. There are some steep sections in the first few miles to get to the boulder field but nothing too crazy. If you are going to try to make it to Pacific Tarn Lake, I would recommend going as far across the boulder field as possible and making the ascent from there. I believe our party may have started going up a little sooner than we should have. Either way, not sure if there is a 100% safe way to get up this section so definitely exhibit a lot of caution during this part. The section to get up there is all scree. Do not climb up directly behind someone, as the rock is definitely going to slide. I brought a helmet and was happy to have it during that climb but the guys I was with did not bring one, but I think it is probably a good idea. Either than one tricky section, this hike is definitely worth doing, whether you decide to do the sketchy climb to the lake or not.

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Emily Grippin
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HikingOff trail

The 4WD trail is closed, adds an extra mile walking on the road. To the second lake the trail is well defined, but afterwards route finding and maps are needed. There are dispersed cairns but I wouldn’t rely on these. Class 3 scramble up the gully to Pacific Tarn is dicey - lots of loose rock and steep slopes use extreme caution here. The lake is beautiful with Pacific Peak, Atlantic Peak and Crystal Peak in the background.

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Dave Spates
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Hiking

9.6 miles RT. Class 3 scrambling up to the ridge with loose rock big and small, bring helmets. Challenging hike to the tarn.

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Brenna Eaton
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Hiking

BEAUTIFUL TRAIL AND LAKES! 4 stars is for those! So worth the hike to Lake 2. Okay, first though, we did not even make it to Pacific Tarn and we logged 9.1 miles. (I forgot to start my recording at first so I tracked the rest and added it). The 6.7 listed on All Trails is completely bogus. I’ve done some tricky “is it class 2? Class 3?” suspicious stuff, but we took one look at the scree wall to get to PT and said “welp, eff that.” “Scree” is generous. That is just pure, slippery dirt. Sister’s bf did make it up without us (using a not recommended route on the left with more solid rock) and he came back with some real beat up arms after a rough fall on the way down the recommended route. Even if I wanted to do the final crux, the boulder field is also *brutal*. If we had made it to Lake 2 and called it a day it would have been perfect. On the way back over the boulders, we did trot around some other beautiful lakes hidden behind the second one, so it’s worth exploring that area. One of them has a glacier! But chasing Pacific Tarn was much harder than the trail reports let on.* I’m a born and raised Coloradan that started hiking at 3 years old and also a NOLS alum, so I wouldn’t say I’m inexperienced, but just didn’t seem worth it to me. Upon return, I asked my sister’s boyfriend that made it if it was worth it; he said, “honestly it’s just a lake and the others were prettier, but I guess the bragging rights are cool.” 60 mph winds up there though almost blew away his backpack. Depends what you’re after! :) *several of the trip reports here are accurate! I had also read some reports on other sites that felt misleading regarding difficulty level, so just know your own limits.

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Bruce Gittleman
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Hiking
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Ammar AGA
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Hiking

The first part of the trail is beautiful, lakes and wildflowers. This is the crowded it part. To get to the Pacific Tarn is hard. Rough talus fields, and need to scale very steep slop. Still there is snow covering this steep slop, and you need to either use snowshoes, or use the very loose terrain round the snow. Be prepared before you decide to scale the head-wall.

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KT Ash
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HikingMuddyRocky

See the entry for "McCullough Gulch Trail" for information on the first 3/4 of this hike, which takes you until the final push to Pacific Tarn. The remainder of the route to Pacific Tarn is a scree scramble. Gorgeous views and amazing wildflowers, but very crowded.

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Jesse Gilmer
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HikingClosed
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Abby Trudell
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I did this last year and have done many other hikes. yet, this is still my favorite. I didn't follow the trail, I did my own route, up two mountaintops and dwon the other sides. we found incredible, serene streams turning into a waterfall. the meadow is so peaceful, covered in wildflowers. the contrast of the dark rock, bright blue sky, white clouds, and bright blue reservoir is breathtaking. if I were to die and have my own personal heaven, it would be this place. I'd be happy falling asleep there and never waking up. MUST SEE.

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Ryan M
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Hiking

Great trail. It takes about 2 miles to get to the start of the actual trail because during winter u can only park in the Quandary lot! Definitely need snow shoes still and didn’t see a single person in 6 hours. Trail is well marked and I can’t wait to go back when the snow melts. Be prepared for this hike as it is definitely remote, no signal and steep

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Christopher Harrold
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Hiking
First to Review

Hiked 7-2-17 Trail was well marked until close to the first lake, and lived up to the "hard" rating. It is a steady and strenuous climb from the McCullough Gulch Trailhead to the Lake, covering only 2 miles but a 1200' elevation gain. As a special bonus we were greeted by that most singular of Colorado experiences, and were snowed on in July at McCullough lake. We attempted to continue up to Pacific Tarn but the trail was impassable due to significant snow still on the ground in the area around the lake. We will return in late summer to attempt again, but the remaining climb is definitely not for unprepared day-trippers - come prepared for a serious climb with the remainder of the 2500' elevation gain still to go after the lake, and all of it above tree line and well exposed. We had to wait out a thunderstorm before we started up, and the second storm brought snow. We beat the third storm wave off the hill, but it would have hit us square on at the tarn had we been able to continue. Be prepared and weather aware! We encountered MANY hikers on the lower trail, but most turned back before the final push to the lake (it is a rough and rocky scramble and not well marked). The trail was in good shape with some trash around, but not nearly as much as other trails we've hiked, and people were very friendly and helpful. Lots and lots of dogs on the trail as well so be aware if that's an issue for you. Trailhead navigation in google maps is spot on, and the parking was as expected (full, but not impossible to find a spot). Do not park in the Quandary Peak lot, it adds almost 2-miles to your hike (unless you want that) and isn't necessary as there is parking further up the road. McCullough Lake was worth the hike alone, so if you try in the near future the view is worth it, even if you cannot continue up.

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Sam Hippely
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Hiking
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Shane Williams
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Hiking
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Kyle Dunn
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Hiking
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William Potter
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Hiking
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Dustin Hamilton
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Hiking
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Austin Mivshek
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Hiking
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Brett Gum
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Krasowski Melinda
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Bing Lee
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