Notchtop as seen from near Lake Helen.
OverviewThis is a very visible and well known mountain in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park along the Continental Divide. It is easily seen from the surrounding area and even from downtown Estes Park, and recognized by its characteristic notch.
To reach the summit of this spire, you must partake in a technical rock climb. According to Gerry Roach's "Rocky Mountain National Park : Classic Hikes & Climbs," the easiest route is an ascent up the Southeast Gully and then along the Northwest Ridge. This is a Class 4 Route.
For those not inclined to take part in a technical climb, there is a great vantage point above the summit spire and the Northwest Ridge. This can be reached by turning NW from Flattop Mountain, up and over Ptarmigan Point, and onto this small rise in tundra overlooking Notchtop. This unnamed point is also named as the summit of Notchtop according to Kent & Donna Dannen in "Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, Including Indian Peaks." (so you can see where the confusion can take place ;)
This is a classic RMNP mountain formed by differential glaciation. As with many other mountains in "The Park," Notchtop is comprised of dramatic cliff faces dropping to glacial carved cirques dotted with glacial tarns, making for some excessively beautiful scenery that all can appreciate!
Whether you are striving to reach the summit, or simply exploring the area around or above Notchtop Mountain, it is a mountain that demands respect. It's steep gullies, narrow ridges and summit, the sheer cliff faces, and the pure beauty of this mountain give it character that is hardly matched anywhere in Colorado.
Round Trip: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,849 feet
Getting ThereYou will want to start your hike from Bear Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park. The easiest way to get to Bear Lake, will be to enter the Park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance (hwy 36). Take your first left onto Bear Lake Road, and follow it until it dead ends (about 10 miles) at the Bear Lake Parking Lot. Follow the path about 1/4th of the way around the lake until you see the trail with sign directing you to Flattop Mountain. Follow that trail.
Red TapeThe 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 , 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 ClimbNotchtop Mountain is more easily accessible during the summer months....Late June through August. In the Winter months, the approach is much harder and avalanch conditions in this area are extreeme.
CampingCamping is allowed in the National Park. There are a few campsites in the area, some closer to Notchtop than others. There are no campsites on the Flattop Mountain Trail. Ask about campsites around Fern Lake and/or sites just West of the divide in the Tonohutu drainage, or the North Inlet drainage. 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
Mountain ConditionsTo get the most accurate conditions on this mountain, it would be best to call Rocky Mountain National Park directly. 970-586-1206.
Looking for a new page maintainer!Due to the controversial naming of where exactly the summit lies on this mountain, I am offering to relinquish the maintaining duties of this mountain to someone who does have firsthand knowledge through experience of climbing the actual spires the mountain was named after. Hopfully you will have good route beta, and pictures of and/or on these routes as well.
In the meantime, I will keep this page active in the hopes that some of the info and pictures will be helpfull to climbers and hikers alike.