OverviewFlattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated west of the Divide, it receives more precipitation, and thereby retains its snowcover longer than many higher peaks in the park. Also because it sits west of the Divide, it is not visible from any populated areas, and only is visible once on top of the Divide.
It is most easily accessed via the Flattop Mountain Trail, but it is still a very remote peak. From Bear Lake, Snowdrift will still be a 16 mile round trip. For this reason, Snowdrift is not climbed very often, and even does not rate a climbing description in the RMNP climbing guide by Kent & Donna Dannen. However, it will be an exceptionally beautiful experience, because once on top of Flattop Mountain, you will traverse the Big Horn Flats for another 3 miles to the base of the peak. Above 12,000 for the entire traverse, you will be treated to extraordinary views and the marvelous tundra and flowers of the Big Horn Flats.
Getting ThereRocky Mountain National Park. Unless you are arriving very early in the morning, you will not be able to park at Bear Lake due to the number of cars visiting the area. Instead, before reaching Bear Lake, follow the signs to the shuttle bus parking lot, which will drop you off at Bear Lake.
Hike the Flattop Mountain Trail to the summit of Flattop Mountain. This is certainly one of the most popular trails in the park, and it will be very crowded. Reach the summit of Flattop Mountain (12,324 ft.) in 4.4 miles, gaining 3,000 feet in the process.
Now, leave the crowds behind. Head northwest over the Big Horn Flats, an expansive alpine plateau located entirely above timberline. The summit of Snowdrift will be visible only once on top of Flattop Mountain. Travel over largely flat terrain for 3 miles, before dropping 500 feet from the Flats to the base of Snowdrift Peak. Climb the snowy east flank of the peak to reach the Southeast Ridge. Climb this snow ridge to the summit (easy, class 2). An ice ax may be useful in early season; otherwise, no equipment is necessary.
Red Tape & CampingAccess to Rocky Mountain National Park costs $20 for a one-week pass. This pass is good at any US National Park. Additionally, one can purchase an Interagency Pass ($80/year) good at any US National Park, or good to park at any US Wilderness trailhead.
Camping is allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park, but not in the Bear Lake Area. For information on camping, contact the Park Service at:
Rocky Mountain National Park- Park Service Site
When To Climb
You can call the Park Service directly for trail and snow conditions at: 970-586-1206.
You can also obtain camping, climbing and hiking information from the Park Service website at:
Rocky Mountain National Park-Park Service Site
A nice webcam pointed directly at the Big Horn Flats from the Estes Park Library can be seen here at:
Big Horn Flats Web Cam