Cracktop Mountain rises only 50 yards from the Continental Divide deep in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a very distinct mountain and easily recognizable, as it's entire northern face is divided by a large couloir or "crack," which leads almost directly to it's summit. Cracktop is a very visible mountain when driving Trail Ridge Road, and is often photographed along with it's majestic neighbors, Mt. Ida, Chief Cheley Peak, Julian Mountain and Terra Tomah Mountain, which rise above the very beautiful Gorge Lakes basin. Millions of tourists see it every year along the road and it could be one of the more photographed mountains in the nation as it provides the backdrop to a few busy scenic overlooks along Trail Ridge Road.
This mountain is not overly difficult to reach, but is not climbed nearly as often as Mt. Ida, which is most people's destination for the day. It doesn't take too much extra effort to move beyond Mt. Ida, up and over Chief Cheley Peak, and on to Cracktop, but it can certainly look intimidating while standing on the summit of Ida.
Frome Milner Pass:
5.5 miles (one way)
2,010 feet elevation gain
The Milner Pass Trailhead is most often used to summit this mountain. This is along Trail Ridge Road (HWY 34 west) about halfway between Grand Lake and Estes Park. Park at Milner Pass and follow the very well defined trail along the Continental Divide all the way to Mt. Ida's summit. Continue along the divide to Chief Cheley Peak, and follow the fun ridge directly above Highest Lake to the summit of Cracktop.
The only permit required is a pass to get into the National Park. You can buy a week pass for $15, or an annual pass for $30. If you plan on camping in the area, you will need to contact the Backcountry Office at 970-586-1242. Fees for camping vary, depending on the season, and the number in your party. A parking pass will only be required when parking overnight. A pass is included in the price of you backcountry camping permit.
Fees for admission.
When To Climb
This mountain is climbed 99.9% of the time between Memorial Day and the middle of October, or when Trail Ridge Road is open. NOTE: During late spring and early Fall, temporary road closures are common, and it would not be uncommon for extended closures or seasonal closure in early October, so check the status of Trail Ridge Road before your trip.
If you do want to climb this mountain earlier or later in the year, you can leave from the Timber Lake Trailhead if Trail Ridge Road is open to that point from Grand Lake. But you will need to check on the conditions of the road. From this trailhead, the climb will be 1.5 miles longer to the summit and add 1,750 feet in elevation gain.
If both of these trailheads are closed, which is likely in the winter months, then you would summit from Bear Lake which would make for a very long approach (approx 14 miles). So it would be much more difficult out of season.
There are a couple of campsites (Snowbird @ Timber Lake & Little Rock Lake) and some cross country zones, some closer to Cracktop than others. Call 970-586-1242 to make reservations. Fees will vary depending on season and the number in your party. These will ALL be STOVES ONLY campsites.
Backcountry Camping Info.
More Info. and maps of designated Backcountry Sites.
Here is the form to request a backcountry permit:
Backcountry Campsite Request Form
To get the most accurate conditions on this mountain, it would be best to call Rocky Mountain National Park directly. 970-586-1206.