There is an inexplicable allure surrounding trolls, particularly when they find solace amidst a forest’s embrace.
When in Breckenridge, Colorado, I highly recommend taking a few moments to visit the renowned Breckenridge Troll. Over the course of the past few years, this captivating sculpture has established itself as an iconic and must-see attraction in this charming ski town.
But before you venture into the forest to find this troll, be sure to check out all of the information below so that you’ll be able to make the most out of your visit.
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What is the Breckenridge Troll?
The Breckenridge Troll, known as Isak Heartstone, is a 15-foot tall wooden sculpture located on the Trollstigen Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Crafted by Danish artist Thomas Dambo in 2018 as a captivating addition to the annual Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA), this extraordinary sculpture is more than just an artwork — it has become an integral part of the city’s character.
Isak Heartstone embodies the very essence of sustainability and creativity with its construction coming from recycled wood from shingles and fallen trees.
Since its creation, the troll has captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike, intertwining itself with the fabric of the community.
In fact, the name “Heartstone” comes from three little girls who gave the artist a heart shaped rock as he was assembling the wooden giant (that rock soon found its way inside the sculpture).
Initially, when the Isak Heartstone sculpture was brought to life, it found its home on a trail situated behind the residential Wellington neighborhood, nestled near the dredge piles not far from the Country Boy Mine.
However, as the troll became very popular, it became clear that its location was too close to areas that weren’t ready for the attention and increase in visitors it would bring.
The increased popularity of the Isak Heartstone sculpture led to a significant rise in passenger traffic on the free shuttle bus which shuttled visitors from downtown Breckenridge to the neighborhood where the trail was located.
In fact, the number of passengers on the shuttle more than doubled compared to the previous year and it earned the nickname, the “Troll Trolley.”
Unfortunately, this surge in visitors also brought along some negative consequences. Residents living near the trail began to voice complaints regarding the growing nuisance caused by the excessive traffic, including issues such as illegal parking and littering.
The unintended side effects of the sculpture’s popularity created challenges for the local community, requiring solutions to mitigate the disturbances and preserve the harmony of the neighborhood.
With opinions clashing, debates broke out among those who supported keeping the troll where it was and those who thought it should be removed.
In response to the challenges faced by the increased popularity of the Isak Heartstone sculpture, a difficult choice was made to remove the troll from its original location until a more appropriate and suitable site could be found.
This decision, although necessary, sparked both outrage and creativity like this song below (that you should definitely listen to when making your journey to the troll).
After careful consideration and community involvement, a suitable location for the Isak Heartstone troll was finally discovered in the summer of 2019.
With the troll finding its new home, it quickly gained immense popularity and captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike, transforming into one of the most cherished and sought-after art installations in the region.
Since its relocation, the troll has become a beloved icon, attracting a multitude of admirers who appreciate its whimsical charm and artistic significance.
How do you get to the Breckenridge Troll?
To get to the parking lot located at the trailhead for the Breckenridge Troll you can head to: 189 Boreas Pass Rd, Breckenridge, CO 80424.
I have to warn you though the parking situation is a little bit odd.
On the one hand, the Breckenridge website states there is “no Troll parking near Isak Heartstone.” Yet, there is a massive parking lot directly adjacent to the trailhead.
Presumably, all of these parking spaces are not for those looking to encounter Isak Heartstone.
This much was made clear when the only option we had to pay in this parking lot was to pay an exorbitant $35 which was obviously absurd for a ten minute hike.
It’s really strange that they would place such a popular attraction near a large parking lot that is not designed to at least partially cater to that attraction but that’s the situation you may be working with.
So what should you do?
Well, the city recommends that instead of parking your vehicle here, you can start at the downtown area and walk or bike your way over.
You can make your way from the Breckenridge Welcome Center (203 S. Main St) and it’ll be about a 15 minute walk. There is also the free shuttle bus that leaves from the Breckenridge Station (next to the BreckConnect Gondola).
Just keep in mind that if you’d like to bike over, you will have to park your bike at the trailhead since bikes are NOT allowed on the trail.
When you visit the troll, be sure you are aware of some of the rules which, while mostly common sense, have been summarized below:
- Leave no trace: There is no waste collection along the trail, so use the provided trash receptacle at the trailhead and ensure you carry out any garbage you bring in.
- Keep dogs on a leash: Be responsible and pick up after your furry friends, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the law. Leashing dogs is required in Breckenridge.
- Stick to the designated trail: Show respect for private property by staying on the marked trail and avoid taking shortcuts.
- Bicycles are not permitted on the trail: Secure them at the trailhead.
- Demonstrate respect: To ensure that Isak remains intact for all visitors to appreciate, admire him as a work of art and refrain from climbing on or damaging the sculpture.
- Follow Breckenridge regulations: Respect the local community by adhering to guidelines and rules. Note that using drones for photography or videography is strictly prohibited.
Also be aware that you might encounter some wild animals while out here. Coyotes are known to make an appearance as are other large mammals so keep your eyes open and always try to maintain a good distance away from wildlife.
Our experience at the Breckenridge Troll
The journey starts with heading to the southeast corner of the Stephen C. West Ice Arena parking lot where you will find the trailhead to take you to the Breckenridge Troll.
You will know that you are on the right path because you will see the sign clearly showing “Trollstigen” and a troll.
In the summer, it’s an easy stroll but in the winter the trail is not maintained so you could be dealing with ice and some serious snow when you arrive. Remember, the elevation here is about 9,500 feet so!
Also, unless you are arriving early in the morning or later in the evening, you can expect there to be a steady flow of hikers.
While some people describe the trek to the troll as a “hike,” it’s more of a brief nature walk. In fact, it’s a very accessible route with a stone path taking you to the troll and a boardwalk taking you back.
From the trailhead, it only took me a couple of minutes to get to the troll going at a pretty moderate pace.
If you’re interested in making more of a hike out of this experience, consider doing one of the adjoining trails like the Little Mountain via Illinois Creek Trail.
Before I knew it, I was standing in front of this gentle giant, its soulful eyes peering down at me.
Personally, I think they did an excellent job with the placement of this piece of art.
It’s tucked just far enough in the woods to make it feel like you stumbled upon something hidden while also being very easy to reach for just about everyone.
Also, I love the fact that this giant troll is gripping a tree. It gives the sculpture a sense of strength and connection to the natural world that just adds to its wonder.
When you visit, make sure that you don’t climb up on the troll as this is an art installation (treat it like you would a museum exhibit).
But so take a moment to examine the amazing details of this piece of art. The carvings and wooden materials on this art piece are truly extraordinary.
And be sure to check out the plaque which might help you unlock the secret location of the 100th troll created by this artist. Although I have to warn you, you’ll have an international scavenger hunt on your hands if you go this route.
When you are ready to leave, there is a designated trail for you to return to the parking lot and it is clearly marked.
The return trail is just about as short as the trail you began on and is pretty scenic as it makes its way along a small creek. If you’re moving at a moderate pace, you could easily knock out this attraction in a total of 10 minutes.
Worth noting: the entire trail is not ADA accessible although if you had some assistance, it’s flat enough that you could probably make it work.
It doesn’t take very long to visit the Breckenridge Troll so I would recommend just about everyone to give this a visit.
The parking situation is still a little bit suspect but other than that, it’s a beautiful art installation and definitely one of the more unique and well executed art pieces you will find in nature.
It’s not clear how long the sculpture will be around so don’t wait too long to check it out! By the way, if you want to find out more troll locations, you can find those here.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.