Swan Mountain Road

Swan Mountain Road seen curving before the second ascent. Swan Mountain itself rises towards the left, though the summit is further south out of the picture. Dillon Reservoir is barely visible in the distance on the right. Photo taken from the entrance to Lowery Campground in the early winter.

Swan Mountain Road is the main thoroughfare between Keystone and Breckenridge. The 9 mile route up and around the hilly beginnings of Swan Mountain makes for some of the most enjoyable driving in Summit County. 

Freshly fallen rocks on the shoulder (and in the road) are an every day experience and it was only a matter of time before a tree fell victim to gravity and erosion. View is east in the direction of Keystone, with Summit Cove visible in the distance and Independence Mountain in the background.

From Hwy 6/Grand Army of the Republic Highway, the route starts near the entrance to Summit Cove and takes you past the scenic Snake River Arm of Dillon Reservoir. The road is carved into a steep hillside, with a dramatic drop on one side and a rock-slide prone face on the other. Not to worry, most rocks seem to fall conveniently onto the shoulder - though some larger boulders fell across a lane at one point and, at the time of writing, there is a young pine tree that has sadly slid down to the side of the road.

At the crest of the hill, you round a bend and are suddenly faced with a pleasant, gently curving meadow drive with a view out to Tenmile Range and an embrace up with length of Swan Mountain. With one final arc in the road, you begin another winding ascent up to Sapphire Point, crossing a signed and illuminated bike path along the way.

Sapphire Point offers a parking lot and is a wonderful place to stop and hike. The trail is very short and very easy, and not even 100 yards from the parking lot you can stand at the rocky outcropping that is Sapphire Point and admire the jaw-dropping view across Dillon Reservoir at Buffalo Mountain and Tenmile Range. In fact, you can see clear south down the Blue River Valley, past the slopes of Breckenridge Ski Resort, and all the way to Hoosier Pass. The sunsets over Tenmile Range can be dramatic and chipmunks will provide pleasant company at any time of day.

From Sapphire Point, with an elevation of about 9,600ft, you can take pleasure in a classic twisted and uninterrupted mountain-road descent all the way down to Hwy 9. Breckenridge is on the left to the south, Frisco and I-70 are to the north.

These articles are my best efforts to share the amazing things I have encountered on my adventure in Summit County. They are a constant work in progress, so check back often for updates and feel free to contact me with questions or comments.