Mt. Helen - East Slope

Difficulty:  Class 2 
Ski: Intermediate
Ski "D System": D4 / R2 / II  
Summit Elevation: 13,164 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 10,400 feet
Elevation Gain:2,700 feet
Round-trip Length: 5.00 miles
Trailhead: Crystal/Spruce Creeks
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Route Added: 02/14/2005
Last Updated: 08/02/2015


From the south end of Breckenridge, drive 2 miles south on Colorado 9. Turn right on Spruce Creek Road. Stay right up a small hill and turn left at an intersection. Stay on the main road and drive 1.2 miles (from Highway 9) to the Spruce Creek trailhead at 10,400’. There is a large parking area here.
To continue to either of the upper, 4WD trailheads, pass through the parking area and continue up the rough road:
Crystal Creek: After 0.2 mile, turn right and follow a narrow, rough road approx. 2 miles to reach Lower Crystal Lake, near 12,000’.
Spruce Creek: From the lower TH, drive nearly 2 miles on the easy 4WD road to reach the upper Spruce Creek trailhead, near 11,100’.


Photo #1 and Photo #2 show the route from the east. This route is Class 2 but it lacks a trail above 11,200’. If you parked at the lower trailhead, begin your hike up the road. Pass the road to Crystal Creek soon after you leave the trailhead. Reach the Aqueduct road after 1 mile on the Spruce Creek road. Turn right and walk up the Aqueduct road to a gate. Pass the gate and walk 50 yards to reach the Wheeler trail as it enters the forest on the left. The entrance is marked with a small sign.

Follow the trail about 100 yards through the forest to a point where the trail begins to climb a small hill. The remaining route does not have a defined trail. Turn left and leave the Wheeler trail. Hike west, southwest up a short slope. There are few small clearings along the way. Not long after starting up through the trees, continue directly west up through the trees. Near 11,200’ the terrain flattens out and there are some clearings. Continue west and locate a steep gully that cuts through the trees. Photo #3 and Photo #4 show the gully. Climb the gully from 11,300’ to 11,500’. This narrow gully is a bit steep but still easy to hike. A small stream runs down the center through mid-summer. At the top, angle to the right into a clearing. Reach tree line near 11,600’.

Find another, wider gully above tree line - Photo #5. It’s in the middle of Helen’s east slope. This gully usually holds snow into July. The remaining 1,500’ feet to the summit is on grass and easy terrain. Hike up or around the wide gully and continue west up the east slope. Photo #6 shows the last 600’ feet to the summit. Keep hauling to reach the easy talus below the summit. Gain the summit for a great view of surrounding Tenmile peaks. Photo #7 and Photo #8 are views from the summit. Photo #9 looks back down on the route.


The East Slope usually has good snow in spring. Photo #2 shows the slope in mid-winter. In spring, the snow can be patchy, but a continuous line from the summit is usually possible. The ski route is generally the same as the hiking route described above. Photo #10 is a view of the terrain near 11,800’. The steepest section is the narrow gully near 11,400’ - Photo #11.


It is also possible to start this hike on the south end of the Aqueduct road that runs between Spruce Creek and Crystal Creek. This involves leaving the main trailhead, driving over 1 mile up the main Spruce Creek road (4WD but not too difficult), and turning right to the start of the Aqueduct road. The road is gated on both ends but parking here shaves some time and elevation off of your hike.


Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7 Photo #8 Photo #9 Photo #10 Photo #11