The Mt Sniktau trail is a moderate to difficult 3.6 mi trail located in the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This 13’er doesn’t disappoint with sweeping views of surrounding 14’ers and 13’ers as well as being moderately trafficked if you get to the trailhead early enough. Highly recommended for any time of year but especially during the late-June, early-July timeframe when the wildflowers are out and blooming.
Mt Sniktau Trail Summary
Overall, I would rate the Mt Sniktau Trail as a moderate to difficult hike, not because of the length but more so because of the altitude and trail steepness. You start off right at 12,000 ft at Loveland Pass and the initial grade is pretty steep and can smack you in the face real quick if you don’t start slow. However, from your first step you’re rewarded with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and I do rate it as a pretty low threat introduction to high alpine hiking. Being above treeline certainly has its drawbacks (wind!) but the constant views always outweigh that in my opinion. The trail is wide and easy to follow, no significant route-finding needed. I’ll be referencing the google map below often so please take a look at that to keep track of my descriptions.
Mt Sniktau Trail Guide
Alright let’s get into the trail breakdown.This trail can be broken down into three different distinct sections. The first is from Loveland Pass to the first trail branch, the second from the branch to the false summit, and then the third from the false summit to the real summit of Mt Sniktau. You can see this breakdown with the markers in the trail map below.
The First Section – Trailhead to Trail Branch
The first section on the way to the trail branch is going to be the steepest section of the hike. The picture to the left gives a pretty good view of this first section. Overall, it is about .9 miles in length to reach the first trail branch, not too far, but it definitely does make you work for it.
The first couple hundred yards of the section are fairly flat but then after that you start to get going on a pretty good incline. For the first half mile or so you won’t reach anything greater than a 20% grade, which is still fairly steep, but you will average at that 10-20% grade the entire time. However, for that last third of a mile you are going to see the grade increase to about 30-40% for the entire time. The difficulty is ratcheted up for this whole section because the trail is mostly scree the entire way up. The loose dirt and rock can make it difficult to get a strong foothold at times and wears you out a little faster than a hardpacked trail. As I said prior this is a great excuse for a lot of breaks to survey the mountain peaks but don’t worry, at least it’s less than a mile long!
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and before long you’ll be up at the trail branch which is impossible to miss. There are rock shelters here at the trail branch to shield you from the wind. Take advantage of those as you take your break after the first section
The Second Section – Trail Branch to False Summit
Now that you’ve reached the trail branch, the most difficult part of the hike is done! As you can see on the map below once you reach the trail branch, with the trail you just came up at your back, you are going to want to take a left and head towards what looks like the summit. Don’t be fooled as this is the false summit but it is another milestone on the way to the top nonetheless. The trip to the false summit will actually be downhill for a small portion, allowing you a little relief from the steep uphill of the prior section. You’ll be able to speed along this section pretty well, the steepest portion of this section is only at about a 20% grade.
The Third Section – False Summit to Summit
The false summit lies right about 1.4 miles from the trailhead and won’t take long at all to reach from the trail branch. Once you’re there take a look and admire the views but you’ll also be able to finally see the last half mile left on the way to the summit.
As you can see in the picture of Mt Sniktau in this section, heading off the false summit you’ll once again have a downhill patch that’s another nice little break from the uphill. You’ll feel like you’re speeding right along, I know I sure did. Once you hit the low-point of this third section you will have some scrambling ahead of you to get up to the summit. There are two small steep sections where you can either scramble directly up or you can sort of go around the side and take a steep scree path up to the top of these parts. Otherwise the last bit to the top is relatively uneventful and soon enough you will be standing on the top of Mt Sniktau!
Mt Sniktau Summit
At the top you can easily see Torrey’s Peak (14’er) to the southeast and may catch a glimpse of another 14’er, Grays Peak, right behind it. Grizzly Peak is a tall 13’er just to the right of those 14’ers. If you turn around and look north you can see Mt. Parnassus, Bard Peak, and Pettingell Peak right across the highway from you. The Herman’s Gulch trailhead is also hiding directly north of you across the highway.
To descend just backtrack from the top and beware the loose dirt and rock on the steep downhill section to the parking lot.
Gear You'll Need
Since this is a fairly short day hike we don’t have a significant gear list but it is important to be prepared. Conditions can always change quickly in the mountains so we do have some essentials that we recommend bringing along.
- Hiking boots – duh! Recommend a mid-height boot. Will keep the rocks out of your shoes and support your foot on the loose trail
- Hiking pants – with how windy it is I don’t recommend shorts unless it’s blazing hot. Also pants will keep the rocks out of your shoes
- Layers – always recommend layers to dress up or down depending on the temperature
- Rain jacket – especially in summer you never know when a storm can pop up
- Backpack – at least one member of your group should have a backpack to carry gear
- Water bottle – at least 1 liter of water per person
- Hiking poles – super useful to save your knees and ankles on the steep downhill coming back
- Sunscreen – protect that skin!
Trail Tips and Information
- There are no restrooms at the trailhead or on the trail
- Recommend stopping to use the restroom in Georgetown if you’re coming from Denver or in Dillon/Silverthorne if you’re coming from the west. There are no trees on the trail so it can be difficult to find a private place if needed.
- Bring wind & rain protection
- You are exposed on ridges almost the entire way up. It has been super windy every time I’ve been up there. Highly recommend bringing some good wind protection and also rain as summer thunderstorms can pop up at any time.
- The wildflowers will be out in mid-June to early-July
- If you head up the trail during the June-July timeframe the first section of the trail will be covered in wildflowers. It is really beautiful and just another reason to stop along the way.
- Bring hiking poles!
- The trail is covered in loose rocks and dirt and it can be very easy to slip especially on the way down. This is always a recommendation of mine since it’s important to keep those knees healthy if you want to keep hiking & skiing.
- Stay on the trail (including pups!) and pack your trash out
- You’re in the alpine area of the Rocky Mts and we want to protect this ecosystem. Staying on the trail in all situations will help prevent widening of the trail and erosion of the soil.
Mt Sniktau Information
Round Trip Distance
With the trailhead located on Loveland Pass it is fairly easy to get to there.
From Denver you’ll want to take I-70 west until just before the tunnel. Take the Loveland Pass exit (216) and go past the ski resort and up until you hit the big sign that says “Loveland Pass – Continental Divide”. It is right about 1 hr 10 min from downtown Denver to Loveland Pass.
From the west you can take either I-70 to exit 216 and then follow the directions above or you can take US-6 east from Dillon/Silverthorne. It’s pretty simple as you’ll just take US-6 past Keystone and then A-Basin until you get to the top of the pass like the directions above.
You can use the map in this section to take a look at exact directions & time from your location. Just click on the marker and then select “Get Directions”. If you hit the little bullseye below the “From” section and then enable location access you’ll be able to see directions and a time from your location.
Once you arrive at Loveland Pass you’ll see people parking on both sides of the road. Park anywhere up there, but generally there’s only enough space for one row of cars on both sides of the road.
I estimate that this top parking area can hold about 35-50 cars depending on how people choose to park that day. If this parking area is full there is another parking area about a quarter of a mile towards A-Basin. That area can hold about another 20 cars or so. Be careful walking up to the main trailhead as there is not much of a shoulder to walk along.
For your reference, I’ve included a snapshot of the satellite view of the parking area. Hopefully this helps make the parking situation clearer for you. The primary trailhead and parking area is the marker to the top of the picture and the alternate parking location is set at the bottom of the picture.
I would recommend arriving at the trailhead no later than about 8am. Much later than that and you are going to be parking at the alternate location. I will caveat this and say that this is a rule of thumb. During the peak summer months of late-June to August I would definitely try to arrive and get on the trail earlier than this.
Overall, the Mt Sniktau Trail will follow a typical weather pattern for any of the high alpine areas. Very windy on the ridgeline, prone to afternoon storms during the summer, and large exposure mark some of the weather characteristics of this hike. Due to these, I recommend you plan ahead for contingencies just in case the weather turns south. Luckily it’s not too far to get back to the car at Loveland Pass. I would rate wind as the largest annoyance and weather factor that you have to deal with on the trail so if you are sensitive to windy areas please bring along the appropriate gear.
Please see the table below for the 5 day forecast for this area.
Current Weather for Loveland Pass