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Spend a day along the CDT culminating with 13er Whale Peak on this dynamic alpine loop.

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13,044' 3,976 m


9,852' 3,003 m


4,789' 1,460 m


4,799' 1,463 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (35°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Lake · Swimming · Views


This hike mixes OHV roads and singletrack which makes the footing a bit more manageable than similar loops. The summit of Whale Peak is quiet and panoramic. The steep descent off the ridge to Gibson Lake is not for the faint of heart, but the footing is solid with careful, slow route-finding.

A great training route for elevation gain and altitude, or to escape the heat!

Need to Know

Of course getting an early start is key whenever traversing the Continental Divide Trail. Be weather aware and don't get caught on the ridge in a thunderstorm. Although steep, one can bail off the ridge line anywhere on the EAST side, follow the creek down to a primary trail, and complete a shorter loop back to the start.

There's also no water until you descend to Gibson lake so make sure you bring plenty with you for this route.

Finally, some of these 'roads' are popular with OHVs, dirt bikes and 4x4s. On a mid-summer Sunday, traffic didn't pick-up until late morning but got busy by our early afternoon decent back to the TH.


Begin by ascending a 4x4 Road (#565) through a forested valley that gives way to the ridge. Continue along this Jeep road climbing over several high points to eventually summit Red Cone Peak (12,736 feet). This seems to be a favorite mountain goat hangout spot so keep your eyes out.

Continue down a steep section and to join the Continental divide trail. A number of roads come together at Webster Pass. The CDT continue directly opposite heading uphill.

I think there are two trails, one which goes over the first noll and another that goes around it. Anyways, follow the Continental Divide trail for 5 miles as it varies between single and doubletrack. The views are outstanding in every direction, yet varied as you travel. Watch out for OHVs along the Jeep roads it sometimes follows.

I recommend ending the traverse with a summit of Whale Peak 13,054 ft. Like most 13ers you'll have the summit all to yourself as it requires a singletrack section that motorized vehicles can't take. The view is outstanding from here, miles in many directions. You Tower above Kenosha pass and can see Bierstadt, Mt Evans and Rosalie to the northeast.

The standard descent from Whale Peak is not for the faint of heart. Take it slowly and carefully and you'll be fine. There is no particular trail so try to follow solid footing, starting just to the north of the summit. You want to come around the north side of Gibson Lake as you get closer then join the Gibson Lake Trail. Follow this 2.5 of miles back to a trailhead. Unfortunately to finish this loop you'll have to hike for another 1.5 miles on the dirt road. Depending on the season there may be a lot of OHV traffic.

Flora & Fauna

A group of 8-10 mountain goats did not want to give up Red Cone Summit! Wildflowers and marmots make for less moody companions.

History & Background

Certainly an old mining haunt, relics abound

Shared By:

Jordan G

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote


in Park County


  5.0 from 1 vote
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Mountain goat on Red Cone Peak.
Aug 2, 2023 near Jefferson, CO
Descending to Gibson Lake. Down valley is Hwy 285 Grant and Bailey looking east.
Aug 2, 2023 near Brecken…, CO
Panoramic from Whale Peak. Note the recommended decent where the runner is dropping off the ridge.
Aug 2, 2023 near Brecken…, CO
View at the top
Jul 17, 2019 near Jefferson, CO



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