OverviewThe Arrowhead is the distal part of the east ridge of McHenrys Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. In recent years, many technical routes of varying difficulty, and even a very nice scramble, have sprouted on the granite slabs of the south face of Arrowhead. These routes are accessed from Black Lake. Though overcrowding does not seem to be a problem even on the "sunny side," the north face has a markedly more alpine character. This is due to the colder climate, the brokenness of the rock, and the intricate approach. Solitude Lake, which lies directly north of Arrowhead is true to its name. Besides seclusion, those who climb Arrowhead by the Class 4 route on the northwest face enjoy great views of McHenrys and Powell Peaks and of Thatchtop. Once on the ridge, the spectacle of Upper Glacier Gorge cannot be described in words. It may be argued that Arrowhead provides the best vantage point to admire its glacial cirque. Furthermore, climbers attracted by the Arrowhead may decide to return to attempt the Class 4 ridge ascent to McHenrys Peak. At least, that is what happened to me.
Getting ThereAccess to Arrowhead is from from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. From Estes Park, drive to the Beaver Meadows entrance to the park. Turn left soon after the entrance gates in the direction of Bear Lake. Limited parking is available along Bear Lake Road. As an alternative, you can park at the shuttle bus terminal and board the bus for Bear Lake. Glacier Gorge TH is the second stop. Bus schedules are posted here. If you haven't been in the area for a while, you may want to know that as part of the Bear Lake Road Reconstruction Project, the Glacier Gorge trailhead has been moved back by 0.3 mi, thus lengthening the round-trip to Arrowhead by 0.6 mi.
Red TapeNo permits are required for day hikes and climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is no parking fee and the shuttle is free. The entrance pass to the park is $20 per car and is valid for 7 days. The fee, however, is not collected before 6:30 AM. All park visitors should follow the Leave No Trace policy.
When To ClimbMost people climb Arrowhead in July and August. The routes on the South face should enjoy a longer season thanks to the favorable exposure. During the summer months, an early start is strongly advised to minimize the danger of lightning. (More people are killed in the U.S. each year by lightning than by hurricanes.) An ascent during the winter would be substantially more challenging than one during the summer: One should expect ice, strong winds, sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures, and frequent storms. Spring and Fall present the most variability. Summer conditions may prevail until October, or may be already gone by late August.
CampingThere are several camping sites within the park. Details on locations, facilities, reservations, and fees can be found at the camping page of RMNP. Bivy information can also be found on the park's site.
Mountain ConditionsThe park's contact information page lists useful numbers. Two webcams, one pointed at Longs Peak and the other at a stretch of the Continental Divide, allow one to get an idea of the conditions not far from Arrowhead.
Detailed forecasts are provided by NOAA.
Never forget that the weather may change very rapidly in the high country. The temperature may drop by 50°F or more in a couple of hours. Those who have been caught out by such sudden changes without proper equipment and preparation have not always survived.