Start from the Colorado River Trailhead off of Trail Ridge Road between Grand Lake and Milner Pass on the western half of the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
Coming from Estes Park, CO, I chose to climb Richthofen starting from the Colorado River Trailhead. Plan on leaving early as this hike may take from 7-11 hours. Unfortunetly, I do not have a map in front of me and will relay my route from memory. You will first follow the flat trail through Lulu City and then rapidly gain elevation until you reach a sign
for Box Canyon and Mt. Richthofen. At this point you must take a right towards Box Canyon even though the sign indicates heading left for Mt. Richthofen. The trail soon crosses the Grand Ditch
at a bridge and Box Canyon will be a half mile further. From here you have a nice view of Lulu Mountain
. I left the trail at this point and climbed steeply up along side the stream on the west side (left) of the trail, bushwacking through heavy vegetation until finally reaching an opening
that will present a beautiful view of Richthofen. Head west through the canyon and try to gain elevation along the south wall to eventually reach the ridge between Box Canyon and Skeleton Gultch. I was fortunate enough to come across a herd of Bighorn's
on my way up to the ridge. It's a difficult approach and you'll be climbing up on all fours before reaching the ridge. The ridge continues west and you have amazing views of the Never Summer Range and on a clear day views of the Mummies clear across the Park. Climb up and over the unnamed mt
? to reach the "base" of Richthofen where you will scramble up loose rock for another 500 ft before reaching the summit
. Richthofen (I've been told) is the only volcano in RMNP and is nonactive (of course), interesting though. To make a more interesting return journey, take the ridge back for a ways (1/2 mile) and carefully decend off the right hand (south) side into Skeleton Gulch
. Do not descend into the gultch too early or you will be in a dangerous situation. It's very steep and needs to be done with much caution. I found a seldomly used trail near the bottom of the gulch and took it east - away from the mountain range. The trail is spotty and I eventually ditched it and just bushwacked east until hitting the Grand Ditch again. Once at the ditch, continue down the road until you find the bridge where you crosses it the first time to find Box Canyon. I absolutely loved this hike!! It was my favorite hike in the entire Park, due to the views, adventure, weather, nature encounters, solitude(once past Lulu City). Took about 8 hours and I estimate 14.5 - 15 miles with a good 4,000 ft elevation gain.
Nothing out of the ordinally is necessary for this hike. Must have a map, compass, and knowledge of the area because most of the time (not distance) will be spent off-trail.
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