Colorado Journals

Hiking Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park

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A travel journal to Colorado by lcampbell

Hallets Peak Photo, Colorado, United States More Photos
Quote: After working at Rocky Mountain National Park for 3 seasons, I have compiled my favorite hikes – most of them challenging, and for the experienced hiker. But I hope to encourange new hikers to explore the backcountry – if not on these hikes, then on shorter but equally beautiful ones!

Hiking Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park

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Overview

Moraine Park sunset Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
I have worked at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) for 3 seasons and I’ve done a lot of hiking in that time. There really is nothing better than putting on those worn out hiking boots, lacing up the dirty laces, and hitting the trail. To me, it doesn’t matter where or how far I hike – I am happy just putting one foot in front of the other. The motion of it immediately relaxes me – clears my head, a sort of meditation. This journal is to encourage folks visiting the Park to get out of their car and experience the rugged backcountry. The hikes included are longer, more challenging hikes, as those are the ones that I mostly do and know most about. They are definitely aimed at more serious ...Read More

Pool of Jade

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Attraction

Hallets Peak Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Elevation: 11360 feet Starting point: Bear Lake parking lot Distance: 2.75 miles (one way) Elevation gain: 1885 feet This was a great hike that my friend and I did one fine sunny day. We started early in the morning from Bear Lake parking lot. Bear Lake is an immensely popular destination for the over 3 million visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park. Because we went very early, we had no problem finding a parking spot. Latecomers may find all the parking spots filled. Another option is to stop at the Shuttle Bus parking area 5 miles before the Bear Lake parking area – from there, you can catch a free shuttle bus to the trailhead. We didn’t know anythin...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Thunder Lake day hike or backpack

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Attraction

Copeland Lake and Mountain Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Thunder Lake Elevation: 10574 feet Starting point: Wild Basin Ranger Station Distance: 6.8 miles Elevation gain: 2074 feet To backpack at Rocky Mountain National Park, you will need to get a permit from the Backcountry Office, which is located at the main Visitor Center on Highway 36. In my Overview you will find an internet link to backcountry permit information. There are 4 backcountry campsites at Thunder Lake, which is a great base camp for hikes to Mount Alice, Tanima Peak, and Lion Lakes (to read about these, see my additional Thunder Lake journal entries.) This is my top choice for a backpacking at Rocky. It is located in Wild Basin, a lesse...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Boulder Grand Pass Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Tanima Peak – 1.7 miles from Thunder Lake, gain 1846 feet, elevation 12420 feet Using Thunder Lake as a base camp, there are some great hikes you can do up onto the Continental Divide by way of Boulder-Grand Pass. The pass is so named because it is on the line between Boulder County and Grand County. As you look up to the Divide, the peak to the left is Tanima Peak, the one on the right is Mount Alice, and Boulder-Grand Pass is the low spot between them. To reach the pass, you will follow an unmaintained trail around the north side of Thunder Lake. On the west side of the lake, the faint trail will continue through alpine meadows and rocky areas, all the while gaining elevation and challengi...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Boulder Grand Pass Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Mount Alice – 2.2 miles from Thunder Lake, gain 2736 feet, elevation 13310 feet If you go north from Boulder-Grand Pass, it is a slightly longer ascent than Tanima Peak to the top of Mount Alice. The summit of Mount Alice is jagged and rocky – it is actually hard to decide where the true summit is. We found it after a couple tries, and knew we were in the right spot when we found a container with a hiker register. Summit registers, where they exist, are maintained by the Colorado Mountain Club, a group of local hikers. From Mount Alice, you can get a great view of Chief’s Head peak, named for it’s resemblance to the profile of an Indian’s head. You can descend Mount Alice the sam...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Flattop Mountain day hike or backpack

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Attraction

Quote:
A good way to experience what Rocky has to offer is by hiking up to the Continental Divide. This can be done as a day hike, or as an overnight backpack trip. Because the two sides of the Divide are quite different – the West side being the wetter, greener, and less visited side and the East side being drier with more dramatic scenery – a good backpack trip is to go up one side of the Divide and come down the other. This trip starts at the Bear Lake trailhead, then it is 4.4 miles and 2849 feet elevation gain to the top of Flattop Mountain on the Continental Divide. There are a couple of trail junctions, but they all have signs that are easy to follow. Getting to the top of Flattop (12,...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Twin Sisters Peak

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Attraction

Twin Sisters Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
The Twin Sisters Trailhead is located behind the Lily Lake Visitor Center on Highway 7, just south of Estes Park. In the area, you can also stroll around Lily Lake and stop at the Visitor Center. Also, near the base of the peak is the historic cabin of Enos Mills (1870-1922) - an early writer, mountaineer, and conservationist who is called the Father of Rocky Mountain National Park. Expect hot and dry conditions on you hike up Twin Sisters (11,428 feet). You will climb steadily for 3.7 miles and gain 2338 feet in elevation. Carry all of the water that you will need – there are no water sources. I had heard stories about Twin Sisters being "a grind" and that it isn’t the greatest hike. I ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Lawn Lake

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Attraction

Lawn Lake Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Elevation: 10789 feet Starting point: Lawn Lake Trail Head Distance: 6.2 miles (one way) Elevation gain 2249 feet Before Rocky Mountain National Park existed, there were a number of privately owned dams and reservoirs established inside what is now the boundary. After the Park was created, a number of the dams remained but were not maintained well. One example of this is the Lawn Lake reservoir and dam, which was 79 years old when is broke on July 15, 1982. A huge wall of water swept down Roaring River and Fall River, flooding the town of Estes Park and killing three people. From the road, the greatest evidence of this flood is a giant outwash fan, or alluvial fan,...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Mount Chapin Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Mount Chapin Elevation: 12454 feet Starting point: Chapin Creek Trailhead Distance: 1.5 feet (one way) Elevation gain: 1814 feet Mount Chiquita (elevation 13,069ft) is another 0.9 miles from the summit of Mount Chapin. Ypsilon Mountain (elevation 13,514 feet) is another 1.1 miles from the summit of Mount Chiquita. This is my absolute favorite hike at Rocky Mountain National Park for a few reasons. First, very few people take this hike, so solitude abounds. The access to the trailhead is up a narrow, winding, one-way, dirt road called Old Fall River Road, built in the 1930’s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp). Rec...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Fairy slippers Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
The hike to West Creek Falls starts at McGraw Ranch, which is 4 miles north of Estes Park on Devil’s Gulch Road (County Road 43), then west on McGraw Ranch Road 2.5 miles to the trailhead. There is limited parking, so go early. This ranch was acquired by Rocky Mountain National Park, after which the buildings were boarded up. Construction has recently started to refurbish the old buildings into a Research Center. From the trailhead, take the main trail a short distance until you see a sign for the North Boundary Trail, which you will follow north for 1.5 miles. It goes up to to a small saddle. From the saddle there is a steeper descent to West Creek. When we went down this north side, we s...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Lumpy Ridge loop

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Attraction

Lumpy Ridge Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
This is a lower elevation hike, so it is a good one for spring, fall, and winter. The hike is around a large granite formation Lumpy Ridge – it is also nice because it is a loop trail (10 miles total). Start this hike at the Twin Owls trailhead, which is reached from downtown Estes Park by heading north on McGregor Ave (between Bond Park and the Municipal Building) which turns into Devil’s Gulch Road. One mile up Devil’s Gulch Road you will come to a sharp curve to the right. At this curve is McGregor Ranch. Drive into McGregor Ranch and follow the road until it reaches the Twin Owls trailhead (¾ mile). If you have extra time, you may want to check out the ranch. It is a historical working ra...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Sky Pond

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Attraction

The Loch Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Elevation: 10900 feet Starting point: Glacier Gorge parking lot Distance: 4.6 miles (one way) Elevation gain 1660 feet This is another hike that I took because I liked the name – Sky Pond. It is heavenly sounding. What I found was that getting there was as wonderful as being there – the way filled with more lakes, streams, and waterfalls - making this an all around fantastic hike! Park at the Glacier Gorge parking area/trailhead, which is on Bear Lake Road just shy of the Bear Lake Parking area. Go very early to get a parking spot, or else you have two other alternatives. You can park at Bear Lake parking area, and walk about 10 minutes down to the Glacie...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Ute Trail

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Attraction

Tundra scene Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
The Ute Trail is best as a one-way hike, starting at the Ute Trailhead (approximately 11,500 feet), high on Trail Ridge Road, and ending at Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead (approximately 8400 feet). You will lose almost 3,000 feet in elevation during the 6 mile hike. While the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead is easy to find, locating the Ute Trailhead is a little confusing. Coming from the east, it is on Trail Ridge Road, past Rainbow Curve about 2 miles on the left side of the road. It is not really a trailhead – just a narrow strip of gravel on the side of the road. There is not an obvious trailhead sign, but I think there is a small wooden sign that says Ute Trail on it. Otherwise, you wil...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2002

Endless Rock on Mount Chiquita Photo, Colorado, United States
Quote:
Here is a list of the "10 Essentials" that you should have with you on all hikes, no matter how short. These things are determined to be what you will need if you are unexpectedly caught in the backcountry for a longer time than you planned. 1. Map and Compass – know how to use them! 2. Flashlight/headlamp and extra batteries 3. Extra food and water – I always bring water purification tablets, which only weigh about an ounce. I keep a couple Power Bars in my pack – I use these because I don’t like them, so I won’t be tempted to eat them during a non-emergency situation. 4. Extra clothes – At minimum, I bring silk long underwear, hat and mittens – all very light items. Num...Read More

About the Writer

lcampbell

lcampbell
Port Angeles, Washington