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Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Page Type: Area/Range

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 40.30000°N / 105.7°W

Object Title: Rocky Mountain National Park

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, Aid Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling, Skiing

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

 

Page By: Nelson, Mountain Jim

Created/Edited: Jan 12, 2006 / Feb 25, 2012

Object ID: 171116

Hits: 95232 

Page Score: 99.58%  - 120 Votes 

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 Hagues Peak
Original oil painting by Mountain Jim

Introduction

It’s an hour drive from my house to the entrance Rocky Mountain National Park. More than 2,000,000 other people can make the same claim, making RMNP one of the most accessible National Parks in the system. To many, this is a reason to avoid the place. In the summer it’s true that you won’t find a parking space anywhere after 9:00 AM, backcountry sites are booked long ago, the major trails are crowded with tourists, and climbing the standard route on Longs Peak is more of a social event than a wilderness experience.

To hiker and climber, however, RMNP has whatever you want: gentle peak bagging, superb rock climbing, exquisite mixed alpine routes, ski mountaineering, long traverses that will kick your butt, and anything in between. There are even a few small glaciers that occasionally sprout crevasses! A spectacular wilderness of rugged beauty is your backdrop. You can spend days or weeks wandering the backcountry, or just a day on an exciting climb and be back in town in time for beers and dinner.

I consider myself lucky to live near Rocky Mountain National Park.

History

 
Estes Park Colorado, 1877
"Estes Park, Colorado" by Albert Bierstadt, 1877.
Used by permission of the Denver Public Library

"We stood on the mountain looking down at the headwaters of Little Thompson Creek, where the Park spread out before us. No words could describe our surprise, wonder and joy at beholding such an unexpected sight"
- Milton Estes on the discovery of Estes Park, October, 1859

Not surprisingly, the history of RMNP mirrors the history of the American West: native population living on the land, the coming of the white man as explorer, hunter, rancher, farmer, miner, businessman, and ultimately, recreationer. Throughout it all, especially in the last century and continuing in full force today, is the constant tension between development and preservation, between parks as playgrounds and parks as preserves.

Most of this information was gleaned from the very readable book, Rocky Mountain National Park - A History by Curt Buchholtz, available at that link from the Rocky Mountain Nature Association. Further information was taken from the excellent and highly recommended High Country Names by Louisa Arps and Elinor Kingery, recounts how most features in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness were named. It appears to be out of print, but copies are available at  Amazon and ABE.

Finally I have a copy of a wonderful booklet Mountaineering in the Rocky Mountain National Park, compiled by Roger W. Toll, a charter member of the Colorado Mountain Club and superintendent of RMNP (mentioned below). The book was published in paperback in 1921 by the Government Printing Office in Washington. I obtained my copy on Ebay, and leave it as exercise for those interested to search the web. Toll writes, in timeless fashion, "Whatever it's kind and degree, mountaineering is the vacation experience which, above all others, fits man and woman to return to life's toils and problems with perspective, endurance and steady nerve." At other times his writing is delightfully quaint. For example, when discussing how to waterproof boots he notes that "Several specially prepared oils are on the market, but bacon fat, lard or axle grease may be used." Ah, men were men back then!

10,000 B.C. Native tribes were using Trail Ridge to travel between hunting grounds on the plains to the east and Middle Park to the west, as indicated by Clovis and Folsom points discovered in the Park  What beauty or terror did the mountains hold for these people?
5,000 B.C. Evidence exists of semi-permanent hunting camps established in Front Range mountain valleys.
3.500 B.C. Low stone wall "game drive systems" are constructed in the mountains, one of which remains near Trail Ridge Road. Hunters could force prey, such as sheep, elk, deer, or goat, along the walls and into the range of men with spears. 
500 A.D. The bow and arrow is introduced to the region, and the first traces of pottery appear. Little recorded history until the white man arrives.
1820 Major Stephen H. Long leads an expedition that explores the plains of the Front Range. He writes that  "a high Peake was plainly to be distinguished towering above all the others as far as the sight extended".  Until then this peak and its sister were known as the The Two Guides by Indians who used them as reference points. French trappers called the peaks Les Deux Orilles, The Two Ears. Now, of course, they are called Longs and Meeker. 
1843 Fur trader Rufus B. Sage enters and becomes the first person to write of a high mountain park near Longs Peak, "What a charming retreat for some of the world-hating literati! He might here hold daily converse with himself, Nature, and his God, far removed from the annoyance of man."
1859 A Colorado "59'er", Joel Estes, drawn to the region looking for gold, settles in the valley described by Sage. He and his family stay for six years, ranching and hunting for a living. Estes Park would soon have a name.
1864 Joel Estes is visited by newspaperman William Byers of the Rocky Mountain News, who makes an unsuccessful attempt to climb Longs Peak. He does summit Mount Meeker, and publishes glowing reports of the region in his newspaper. 
1865 Novelist Jules Verne uses Longs Peak as the site of a astronomical observatory for his book From the Earth to the Moon.
1868 Byers returns to Longs Peak, and with John Wesley Powell, L.W. Keplinger, and others, makes the first well-documented ascent. Powell predicts that this "hitherto been deemed impossible" feat would be surpassed by greater achievements. The following year he began his momentous journey down the Grand Canyon. 
1871 The age of geologic exploration of the American West. Clarence King's Fortieth Parallel Survey enters Estes park. Among them is Henry Adams, a descendant of presidents, who adds to the glowing descriptions of the the region in print. The Survey climbs climbs many peaks and produces the first detailed maps.
In August the Reverend Elkanah Lamb climbs Longs Peak via the Keyhole, then descends the unexplored east face! He loses his footing on Mills Glacier and amazingly manages to arrest his fall by grabbing a rock. Mills Glacier is now generally known as Lambs Slide.
1873 James Gardner of the Hayden Survey continues the government exploration. They carry scientific instruments to the summit of Longs Peak. Anna Dickenson, the first woman the make the ascent, is with them. She had climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire 26 times, and the name Lady Washington is given to one of Longs' satellite peaks. This expedition also includes photographer William Henry Jackson, whose superb images capture the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
1873 A British aristocrat, the Earl of Dunraven, leads a hunting group into Estes Park and stays. He writes, "The air is scented with the sweet-smelling sap of pines, whose branches welcome many feathered visitors from southern climes, ... The climate is health-giving ... so delightful that none can appreciate it except those who have had the good fortune to experience it themselves". The  Earl forms the Estes park Company, Ltd, and attempts to buy up the entire valley, using legally dubious schemes. By 1880 he owns or controls 15,000 acres. Whether he intended this as a private hunting preserve or as a cattle ranch remains unclear, but his plans are thwarted as more settlers arrive.
1873 Isabella Bird arrives and is guided up Longs Peak by Rocky Mountain Jim Nugent, camping in what is now called Jim's Grove. In her best-selling book A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains she writes that Jim "dragged me up, like a bale of good, by sheer force of muscle". The following year Jim is killed in a gunfight with one of Dunraven's ranchers. The details of the incident remain in dispute.
1875 An influx of more homesteaders includes Abner Sprague, Alexander MacGregor, and Elkanah Lamb, whose names are familiar in the Park today. Lamb and his son Carlyle begin the first Longs Peak guide service, taking clients up for five dollars. They are all opposed to Dunraven's scheme to control the valley.
1876 Colorado enters the United States as the 38th state. Dunraven hires artist Alfred Bierstadt to paint a large landscape of Estes Park and Longs Peak. He pays Bierstadt $15,000 and the painting is sent to Dunraven Castle in Wales. Today it is owned by the Denver Public Library.
1877 Using Bierstadt's advice for the location, Dunraven opens the Estes Park Hotel, his plans for a private hunting reserve having failed. The hotel is known locally as the English Hotel.
1878 Tourists and recreational campers begin to arrive in Estes Park. Among them are Carrie Strahorn who writes in her book Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage that Estes is "a veritable Eden ... the sun never shown more brilliantly, the flowers never blossomed more beautifully, and the waters never chanted more hypnotic music, all luring us to stay". She is not the last to feel that way.
1879 The mining boom finds it's way to these mountains, especially in the Rabbit Ear Range, now known as the Never Summer Range. The village of Grand La ke is formed to support the n eeds of the miners
1880-1890 Mining reaches its peak during this decade with the town of Lulu City booming for 3 years along the headwaters of the Colorado River. The town includes a butcher shop, real estate agency, a hotel, barber shop, general stores, and of course, a liquor store or two. However the ore is of poor quality, and the inevitable bust soon follows.
1885 Homesteader Enos Mills arrives. He, more than anyone else, will influence the future of these mountains. He begins working as a guide for Carlyle Lamb and makes the first of his 250 ascents of Longs Peak.
1886-1888 Writer Frederick Chapin comes to Estes Park for seasons of mountain climbing. Chapin was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, and his book Mountaineering in Colorado: the Peaks about Estes Park opens club member's eyes to the Rockies. Mountaineering for sport had arrived.
1890 Work begins on the Grand Ditch. This water diversion project redirects Never Summer water from the West to the East side of the Continental Divide, sending it into the Poudre River and out to the Front Range plains for agriculture. The ditch remains in use today and is clearly visible on the mountain slopes.
1892 A conservationist movement starts to take hold in the region, its proponents calling for more careful and long-reaching management of public lands. Issues centered on use of forests and watersheds (sounds familiar!), as well as regulated hunting and fishing. The presidency of Theodore Roosevelt ten years later adds support to these ideals.
1902 Enos Mills buys the Longs Peak Inn from Carlyle Lamb. His commitment to preserving the region is complete and he embarks on a career of writing and public speaking to a national audience, with the intent of building support for a national park.
1905 The Estes Park Town Company is formed, and a village begins to grow along the banks of  Big Thompson and Fall Rivers.
1909 After two years of construction, the Stanley Hotel opens its doors for business. Designed and built at a cost of more than half a million dollars by F.O Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer, the hotel caters to wealthy visitors who would stay for a month or more. This creates the need for easy road access from the plains, and good roads are built up the canyons by Lyons and Loveland, from where it takes five hours to reach Estes Park.
1912 The Colorado Mountain Club is formed. Charter members include Enos Mills,  Roger Toll, superintendent at Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, and Mount Rainier National Parks; and Carl Blaurock, first to climb all of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks. Working to create a Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the club's objectives.
1913 Construction begins on Fall River Road, a seven year project. It is one of the first roads to offer direct access to the Colorado high country by automobile. It ends at Fall River Pass, and travelers to Grand Lake, 20 miles distant, completed the journey on horseback.
1915 After years of effort and lobbying by Mills and many others, Rocky Mountain National Park is dedicated after President Woodrow Wilson signs the bill into law. Mills vision of 1,000 square mile park had shrunk to 358 square miles, but no doubt he had reason to celebrate that day.
1917 A young woman, so-called Miss Agnes Lowe, proposes to go into the Rocky Mountain National Park wilderness "Naked, Unarmed and Alone", according to the Denver Post. For the following week newspapers all over the country report sightings of the "Eve of Estes roaming through sunshine 'a la Nature".  In fact Park Superintendent Claude Way had collaborated with the Post to arrange the stunt, and Miss Lowe was actually hidden in the Fern Lodge. Regardless, the publicity drew much attention to the new Park
1920 With the opening of Fall River Road more than 240,000 visitors enter the park
1921 Roger Toll becomes Park Superintendent. He is a mountaineer and says "great views create great thoughts and great thoughts create great men", and "mountaineering promotes health and strength of the body, ... and many other qualities that make for a sturdy manhood and womanhood". His tenure in the park, until 1929, is marked by numerous issues including wildlife management, states rights over road ownership, private property rights, and an increase in the number of backcountry accidents. He was able to add the Never Summer Mountains to the Park, and he worked to promote the benefits of outdoor recreation. Mount Toll in the Indian Peaks Wilderness is named for him.
1921 The Holzwarth Trout Lodge, later called the Never Summer Ranch begins catering to tourists along the banks of the Colorado River north of Grand Lake. The cabins and property are now owned by the Park.
1925 In a much publicized accident Agnes Vaille dies during the descent on Longs Peak while attempting to become the first woman to climb the East Face in winter. Her parter, Walter Kiener, goes for help, but it arrives too late, and one of the rescuers, Herbert Sortland, is also lost in the storm.
1929 More than 1,600 people sign the Longs Peak summit register this year. The Bear Lake Road is completed, and work begins on Trail Ridge Road to replace the narrow and hazardous Fall River Road.. It is completed in 1933 "providing sufficient room for even the most timid and unexperienced motorists to pass abreast". There was some opposition to its construction, a foreshadow of the tension between preservation and development that continues today. Care is taken to minimize the road's impact on the alpine scenery.
1933 In the midst of the depression the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructs buildings, campground, trails, and performs numerous other tasks in the Park for the next 10 years.
1933 Plans begin for a tunnel under the park to transport water from Grand Lake on the western slope to the Big Thompson River on the east. This is met with fierce opposition, but the need for water carries the day and construction begins in 1940, and water flows through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel in 1947. However, once again damage to the wilderness is kept to a minimum.
1948 The post-war boom years arrive and visitations to Rocky Mountain National Park tops one million for the first time.
1955 The Hidden Valley ski area is opened inside the Park. Once again there had been years of conflict between the use of the park as a preserve or a playground, with the fight going all the way to the U.S. Congress. Neither side was satisfied with the compromise, skiers wanting more trails and bigger buildings, preservations wanting fewer trees removed. The ski area operated until 1991, not really competing with Colorado's big resorts, and the Park Service removed the buildings in 2004.
1957 Four seasonal RMNP rangers are awarded the NPS Valor Award for the epic 1956 rescue of Patrick Dwyer, who fell several hundred feet from the north face of Hallett Peak.
1960 Much to the chagrin of several Colorado climbers, two Californians are given a permit to attempt an ascent of The Diamond on Longs Peak. David Rearick and Bob Kamps complete the climb in 52 hours, in what becomes a huge media event. Rangers have a 1,200 length of rope on the summit in case of a rescue, but the experienced Yosemite big wall climbers did not have any serious difficulties . They are given a guest of honor ride through Estes Park.
1964 The Wilderness Act becomes law, and once again Rocky Mountain National Park enters into the debate over it's mandate as a preserve or playground. More than 90 percent (265,000 acres) of the Park is proposed as wilderness. Disputes over water rights, existing property rights, and backcountry usage (which grows 900% from 1965-75) continue. As of today (April 2006), designating 249, 339 acres as wilderness is making its way through Congress.
1973 The cables are removed from the north face of Longs Peak, due to over-crowding on the route.
1978 Buses begin to shuttle people up the Bear Lake road, the Parks' most popular destination, due to accidents and over-crowding on the road. The 1,000 acre Ouzel Fire in Wild Basin becomes a focal point of the continuing debate about resource management. The fire is initially left to smoulder in the backcoutry, but winds fanned it to eventually threaten the town of Allenspark.
1982 A dam at Lawn Lake fails and the resulting flood kills three people and causes $31 million dollars in property damage. Aged dams are  removed from Bluebird, Pear and Sandbeach lakes in Wild basin over the next few years.
2000 A five-year fight, led by the Estes League of Women Voters and Larimer County Commissioners, to prevent commerical sightseeing flights is successful as a bill banning this activity permanently passes Congress. The natural sounds of the Park remain undisturbed for now.
2003 The 70-year old Chasm Meadow shelter cabin, at the base of  Longs Peak East Face, is destroyed by a massive avalanche that was triggered by a 100-year blizzard.
2005 Ranger Jeff Christensen becomes the first RMNP Park ranger to die while on duty, from a fall sustained while on patrol in the Mummy Range.
... more to come as time marches on ...


Further on-line references:
Offical RMNP Page - A Brief History
Official RMNP Administrative History
Estes On-line Brief History of Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park History by Dr. Ferrel Atkins, Park Historian

Natural History

The Park is a treasure-trove for naturalists. Based on the interest in natural history threads here on SP I know this includes a lot of climbers. The Park consists of three main eco-systems, the montane which extends from the lowest elevations up to about 9,000 feet. The sub-alpine zone goes from there to tree line at about 11,000 feet, where the alpine tundra begins. The Park's Natural and Cultural Resources website has excellent pages describing these zones.

Flattop Mountain  photo_id=72363

I will just provide a partial list of things you might see, in no particular order:
CrittersBirdsFlowersTrees & Plants
Elk
Mule Deer
Bighorn Sheep
Coyote
Mountain Lion
Black Bear
Beaver
Moose
Pika
Marmot
Chickaree Squirrel
Abert's Squirrel
Ground Squirrel
Least Chipmunk
Snowshoe Hare
Tiger Salamander
Chorus Frog
Garter Snake
Mallard
Ring-necked Duck
Great Blue Heron
Blue Grouse
White-tailed Ptarmigan
Spotted Sandpiper
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Red-naped Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Western Wood-Pewee
Steller's Jay
Gray Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Clark's Nutcracker
American Crow
Common Raven
Blue-headed Vireo
American Dipper
Mountain Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Mountain Chickadee
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Green-tailed Towhee
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Colorado Columbine
Indian Paintbrush
Fireweed
Lupine
Elephant Head
Monk's Hood
Rocky Mountain Locoweed
Mariposa Lily
Gaillardia
Marsh Marigold
Tall Chiming Bells
Calypso Lady Slipper
Heartleaf Arnica
Alpine Forget-Me-Not
Parry Primrose
Moss Campion
Penstemon
Pondrosa Pine
Lodgepole Pine
Limber Pine
Bristlecone Pine
Douglas Fir
Blue Spruce
Englemann Spruce
Rocky Mountain Juniper
Rocky Mountain Maple
Quaking Aspen
Chokecherry
Wax Currant
Oregon Grape Holly

Satellite Photo

This satellite photo is from  The Gateway to Astronaut Photography website. The major trailheads on SP are shown as red dots. Clicking on them will take you that trailhead's page, from where you can surf to the peaks that are accessible from there.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Lake Agnes Trailhead Bear Lake Trailhead Chapin Pass Trailhead Colorado River Trailhead Cow Creek Trailhead Emmaline Lake Trailhead Fern Lake Trailhead Glacier Gorge Trailhead Green Mountain Trailhead Lake Agnes Trailhead Lawn Lake Trailhead Longs Peak Trailhead Lumpy Ridge Meeker Park Milner Pass Twin Sisters Trailhead Wild Basin Trailhead

To see a large (2400 x 1800, 2 MB) image of this photo without any labels or red dots use this link.

Also, be sure to check out Kane's Mega Maps page for another perspective.

Panoramas

All panoramas produced by Mountain Jim


Longs Peak from Copeland Mountain


Longs Peak from Copeland Mountain



Thatchtop Summit Panorama


Thatchtop Summit Panorama



Mount Olympus Summit View


Mount Olympus Summit View Panorama



View From Desolation Peaks


View from Desolation Peaks



View From Crosier Mountain


View from Crosier Mountain



Lumpy Ridge


Lumpy Ridgee




Trailheads and Peaks

These tables list the RMNP peaks that are on SP, and the nearest trailhead. The trailheads are sorted alphabetically, and the peaks are sorted by elevation within each trailhead's section.

Some of the peaks are just outside the Park, and many of the peaks can be reached via trailheads other than the one specified here. That is often spelled out on the peak's page, but if not, then finding alternative approaches is left as an exercise (no pun intended) for the reader.

The grades and class of the least difficult route are also specified. This implies that you stay on route. On all peaks there are numerous harder routes. Check the peak's page, or guidebooks, or do your own exploring. And, of course, there are assorted traverses and ridge walks such as the Longs Peak Grand Slam, Mummy Mania, or even the Glacier Gorge Traverse that will increase the grade by a notch or two!

Grades describe the overall length of the climb and are defined loosely as:
I - A short day and up to 3,000 feet of elevation gain
II - A full day and up to 5,000 feet of elevation gain
III - A very long day, more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain

Classes describe the technical difficulty of the climb where:
1 - On trail
2 - Off trail
3 - Scrambling, use of hands for balance required
4 - Difficult scrambling, basic rock climbing techniques may be necessary
5 - Technical rock climbing

Bear Lake

Link to trailhead
Hallet Peak 12713 ft / 3875 m II, Class 2
Hayden Spire 12480 ft / 3804 m III, Class 5.2
Ptarmigan Point 12363 ft / 3768 m I, Class 2, Mod Snow
Knobtop Mountain 12331 ft / 3758 m II, Class 2
Flattop Mountain 12324 ft / 3756 m I, Class 1
Snowdrift Peak 12274 ft / 3741 m II, Class 2, Mod Snow
Notchtop Mountain 12129 ft / 3697 m I, Class 4
Little Matterhorn 11586 ft / 3531 m I, Class 3/4


Chapin Pass

Link to trailhead
Ypsilon Mountain 13514 ft / 4119 m I, Class 2
Mount Chiquita 13069 ft / 3983 m I, Class 2
Desolation Peaks 12949 ft / 3947 m II, Class 3
Mount Chapin 12454 ft / 3796 m I, Class 2


Colorado River

Link to trailhead
Howard Mountain 12810 ft / 3904 m II, Class 2
Mount Cirrus 12797 ft / 3901 m II, Class 2
Mount Cumulus 12725 ft / 3879 m II, Class 2
Mount Nimbus 12706 ft / 3873 m II, Class 2
Lead Mountain 12537 ft / 3821 m II, Class 2
Lulu Mountain 12228 ft / 3727 m I, Class 2


Cow Creek

Link to trailhead
Dark Mountain 10859 ft / 3310 m II, Class 2


Emmaline Lake

Link to trailhead
Comanche Peak 12702 ft / 3872 m II, Class 2
Fall Mountain 12258 ft / 3736 m II, Class 2




Fern Lake

Link to trailhead
Stones Peak 12922 ft / 3939 m II, Class 2






Glacier Gorge

Link to trailhead
Chiefs Head Peak 13579 ft / 4139 m II, Class 3
Pagoda Mountain 13497 ft / 4114 m II, Class 3
McHenrys Peak 13327 ft / 4062 m II, Class 3
Powell Peak 13208 ft / 4026 m II, Class 2, Mod Snow
Taylor Peak 13153 ft / 4009 m II, Class 2, Easy Snow
Thatchtop 12668 ft / 3861 m II, Class 2
Arrowhead 12642 ft / 3853 m II, Class 4
The Sharkstooth 12630 ft / 3850 m II, Class 5.4
The Spearhead 12575 ft / 3833 m II, Class 3
Otis Peak 12486 ft / 3806 m II, Class 2, Easy Snow
Petit Grepon 12000 ft / 3658 m II, Class 5.8
Half Mountain 11482 ft / 3500 m II, Class 2


Green Mountain

Link to trailhead
Sprague Mountain 12713 ft / 3875 m II, Class 2
Nakai Peak 12216 ft / 3723 m II, Class 2


Lake Agnes

Link to trailhead
Mount Richthofen 12940 ft / 3944 m I, Class 2
Static Peak 12571 ft / 3832 m I, Class 3
Tepee Mountain 12568 ft / 3831 m II, Class 2


Lawn Lake

Link to trailhead
Hagues Peak 13560 ft / 4133 m II, Class 2
Fairchild Mountain 13502 ft / 4115 m II, Class 2
Mummy Mountain 13425 ft / 4092 m II, Class 2
Rowe Peak 13404 ft / 4086 m II, Class 2


Longs Peak

Link to trailhead
Longs Peak 14261 ft / 4347 m II, Class 3
Mount Meeker 13911 ft / 4240 m II, Class 3
Storm Peak 13326 ft / 4062 m II, Class 2
Mount Lady Washington 13281 ft / 4048 m II, Class 2
Estes Cone 11006 ft / 3355 m I, Class 2


Lumpy Ridge

Lumpy Ridge / The Needles 10068 ft / 3069 m I, Class 1 through 5.anything






Meeker Park

Link to trailhead
Lookout Mountain 10715 ft / 3266 m I, Class 4
Horsetooth Peak 10344 ft / 3153 m I, Class 4/5.0




Milner Pass

Link to trailhead
Mount Ida 12880 ft / 3926 m I, Class 2
   Chief Cheley Peak 12804 ft / 3903 m II, Class 2
Mount Julian 12928 ft / 3940 m II, Class 2
Cracktop 12760 ft / 3889 m II, Class 3
Terra Tomah Mountain 12718 ft / 3876 m II, Class 3


Saint Vrain Mountain

Link to peak
Saint Vrain Mountain 12162 ft / 3707 m II, Class 2
Meadow Mountain 11632 ft / 3545 m II, Class 1




Stormy Peaks

Link to trailhead
Stormy Peaks 12148 ft / 3703 m II, Class 2






Trail Ridge Road

Link to peak
Sundance Mountain 12466 ft / 3800 m I, Class 1






Twin Sisters

Link to trailhead
Twin Sisters Peaks 11413 ft / 3479 m I, Class 1






Wild Basin

Link to trailhead
Mount Alice 13310 ft / 4057 m II, Class 2
Copeland Mountain 13176 ft / 4016 m II, Class 2
Ogalalla Peak 13138 ft / 4004 m II, Class 3
Isolation Peak 13118 ft / 3998 m II, Class 2
Elk Tooth 12848 ft / 3916 m II, Class 3
Ouzel Peak 12716 ft / 3876 m II, Class 2
Pilot Mountain & The Cleaver 12411 ft / 3783 m II, Class 3
Hidden Falls Ice Climbing N/A WI2-4/ M4-6

Personal Favorites

Listed here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite hikes, scrambles and snow climbs. They are listed without any information, leaving it to you do further research using SP’s pages and/or the books noted in the Resource section below. But I do feel safe in suggesting that you’ll enjoy any of these outings.

Hikes

With a couple of exceptions these are entirely on trail. All can be done as day hikes.

  • Glacier Gorge - any trail branch: Black Lake, Sky Pond, or Andrews Glacier.

  • Glacier Gorge - Shelf and Solitude Lakes below the Arrowhead. This involves some off trail scrambling.

  • Bear Lake loop: Dream Lake, Lake Hiyaha, Alberta Falls. Could include branch to Emerald Lake, and/or Mills Lake, and/or Loch Vale.

  • Bear Lake to Flattop Mountain. Continue on to summit Hallet Peak and return. Or keep going along the divide and descend Andrews Glacier for a nice loop (might require an ice axe for this).

  • Fern Lake trailhead to Bear Lake, passing Fern, Odessa and Lake Helene. A detour to beautiful Spruce Lake is another option. Requires car shuttle or use RMNP bus. Most people might chose to go in the other direction, but I prefer hiking uphill.

  • Cub Lake loop via The Pool. Possibly the easiest six mile hike in the Park.

  • Loop around Lumpy Ridge
  • .
  • Wild Basin: either Thunder or Bluebird Lakes

  • Longs Peak: Chasm Lake and/or the Keyhole

  • Mummy Range: Spectacle Lakes. Last bit to the lakes requires a bit of rough scrambling and some route finding.

  • Mummy Range: Lawn Lake

  • Mummy Range: Chapin Pass to Ypsilon Mountain.

  • Colorado River trail to Lulu City

  • East Inlet trail to Lake Verna

  • Tonahutu or Green Mountain trail to Haynach Lakes

  • Milner Pass to Forest Canyon parking area on Trail Ridge Road via Gorge Lakes and Forest Canyon. This is a rugged, off trail excursion. A long hard day. You’ll traverse an often seen but seldom visited region of the Park.




Peak Bagging

These are mostly class 3, with exceptions noted.

  • McHenry’s Peak via Stone Man Pass. The approach to the west of Black Lake (noted in Roach’s book) is a fun alternative to the standard ramp to the east.

  • Longs Peak via the Keyhole. Crowded in summer but it's a classic.

  • Longs Peak Kieners Route. Low 5th class rock, moderately steep snow. Another classic.

  • Longs Peak Loft Route via Clark's Arrow and Keplinger Couloir. (Yes, I like Longs Peak)

  • Mount Meeker via Loft

  • Spearhead northwest slopes, the class 3 route to the summit.

  • Pagoda from Black Lake

  • Taylor Peak via Andrews Glacier

  • Little Matterhorn - keeping this at class 3 involves good routfinding.

  • Mount Ida to Chief Cheley to Cracktop

  • Mount Richtofen from Lake Agnes, access from Poudre Canyon. A long drive, but a nice peak if you are up in that corner of the park.



Snow Climbs


Peak season for these moderate routes is typically sometime in May through sometime in July, but it varies.

  • Tyndall Glacier

  • Flattop Mountain North Face Couloirs

  • Flattop Mountain Dragon's Tail Couloir

  • Ptarmigan Glacier (can use this as descent from Flattop Couloirs)

  • Mount Meeker Dreamweaver

  • Longs Peak Trough

  • Mount Powell North Face Couloirs

  • Y Couloir of Ypsilon (I was turned back twice, so haven’t completed this one.)




Weather / Conditions

Typical for Colorado, conditions range from the calm, beautiful high pressure in summer, to howling white-out blizzards in the winter. Or, the other way around.

The biggest weather summer hazard is the afternoon thunderstorms which can build with alarming speed and danger. These are common from May through September are are often fully formed by noon. The Front Range is also known for ferocious wind, especially in winter.

First off, be sure to check out SP member sshankle's page on Colorado Front Range Weather

Colorado Mountain School guide Eli Helmuth has a great web page with current park climbing conditions: ClimbingLife.com

National Weather Service Longs Peak Ranger Station forecast, elevation 9420 feet. Of course specific mountain conditions vary wildly over small distances.

Forecast for Trail Ridge Road, 11,700' elevation

Estes Park forecast, the gateway town on the east side of RMNP.

Weather charts data from the Niwot Ridge Meteorological site, located at at 11,572 ft (3528 m) on Niwot Ridge, 30 miles south of RMNP. This gives you an indication of recent regional high altitude conditions.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center, more mountain forecasts and current conditions, highly useful avalanche information. Operates in winter months only. Be certain that I am not accompanying you if you are venturing into avalanche terrain. It could ruin your day.

Resources and Links

The official RMNP site:
Official Rocky Mountain National Park Website
Park Map Viewer
List of Hiking Trails
Bear Lake Corridor Trail Map
RMNP Climbing and Mountaineering Page
RMNP Backcountry Camping Page
Backcountry Camping Sites
Bivouac Sites List

A good external site with listed hikes and other information.

The Colorado Mountain School site has details about their courses and guided climbs in the Park, and elsewhere.

Some Estes Park and Grand Lake web sites for accomodation, dining, etc.
www.estes-park.com
Estes Park Visitors Bureau
estes.on-line.com
Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce

The Rocky Mountain Nature Association offers fields trips, seminars, and has a good selection of books.

Some good books (links take you to Amazon.com):
Lisa Foster, Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide. The best RMNP hiking guide. Buy it if you want great information about both standard and obscure Park hikes.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Classic Hikes and Climbs . It's out of print but this is my favorite peak bagging book . Roach is intentionally somewhat vague about the routes. Figuring them out is a great part of the fun. See if you can find a copy if you are into hitting peaks via basic mountaineering routes.

Bernard Gillet, Rocky Mountain National Park: Estes Park Valley: The Climber's Guide
Bernard Gillet, Rocky Mountain National Park: High Peaks: The Climber's Guide
Dougald Macdonald, Longs Peak: The Story Of Colorado's Favorite Fourteener
Paul Nesbit, Longs Peak: Its Story and a Climbing Guide
Richard Rossiter, Rock Climbing Rocky Mountain National Park: The Crag Areas
Richard Rossiter, Rock and Ice Climbing Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks

A fun map, not to take on the trail but to hang on your wall and plan your next trip:
Trail Tracks Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Map

Finally, the NPS has posted the entire text of Roger Toll's 1919 classic Mountaineering in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Thanks to brenta for bringing this to my attention. It is worth having a look. Click on the cover image below:


The table of contents has links to the old photos in the book:



Parting Shot

Lamb s Slide Shadow
Lamb's Slide, Kieners Route, Longs Peak

Images