OverviewCopeland Mountain resembles the helmet used by cyclists in time trials--only blown up to measure 2.5 miles. Its easily recognizable shape dominates southern Wild Basin, at the southern end of Rocky Mountain National Park, and can be seen from the Indian Peaks at the south as well as from the summits contouring Glacier Gorge at the north. Copeland Mountain is connected to the Continental Divide by its tower-ridden west ridge whose lowest point is Cony Pass. The east ridge, on the other hand, gently slopes down and provides an easy, albeit very long, access to the summit. The north and south faces have been eroded into broken cliffs seldom visited by climbers. The views from the summit of Copeland Mountain are among the best in the Park, and handsomely repay the long approach and the strenuous climb. An off-season visit adds a little spice to the ascent and allows one to savor the surrounding peaks in their Winter splendour.
John B. Copeland was a homesteader in the late nineteenth century. The USGS adopted the name Copeland Mountain in 1911. The summit was also known at some point as Clarence King Mountain. RyanS reports that a diagram still visible at Denver University bears that name.
Getting ThereThe two most common approaches to Copeland Mountain are from the Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead and from the Finch Lake trailhead, both located in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park. The Wild Basin entrance to the Park is located on Colorado Highway 7, between Allenspark to the south and Meeker Park to the north. After turning west from Colorado 7, go for less than half a mile until you turn right at a sign indicating the Wild Basin entrance station. The Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead (8480 ft) is located at the end of the dirt road that starts at the entrance station. The Finch Lake trailhead (8460 ft) is along the same dirt road, about a quarter of a mile from its end. The trailhead is on the left (south) side of the road, indicated by a sign that is well visible. If you reach the bridge on the St. Vrain Creek you have gone too far. The dirt road is passable by passenger cars.
Red TapeNo permits are required for day hikes and climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is no parking fee. 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 ClimbSpring to Fall. 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 and specifically in Wild Basin. It is usually easier to get permits for Wild Basin than for the rest of 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 Copeland Mountain. 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.