Copeland Mountain

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Colorado, United States, North America
13176 ft / 4016 m
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Copeland Mountain
Created On: Oct 4, 2004
Last Edited On: Sep 26, 2009


Copeland Mountain resembles the helmet used by cyclists in time trials--only blown up to measure 2.5 miles. Its easily recognizable shape dominates southern Wild Basin, at the southern end of Rocky Mountain National Park, and can be seen from the Indian Peaks at the south as well as from the summits contouring Glacier Gorge at the north. Copeland Mountain is connected to the Continental Divide by its tower-ridden west ridge whose lowest point is Cony Pass. The east ridge, on the other hand, gently slopes down and provides an easy, albeit very long, access to the summit. The north and south faces have been eroded into broken cliffs seldom visited by climbers. The views from the summit of Copeland Mountain are among the best in the Park, and handsomely repay the long approach and the strenuous climb. An off-season visit adds a little spice to the ascent and allows one to savor the surrounding peaks in their Winter splendour.

John B. Copeland was a homesteader in the late nineteenth century. The USGS adopted the name Copeland Mountain in 1911. The summit was also known at some point as Clarence King Mountain. RyanS reports that a diagram still visible at Denver University bears that name.

Getting There

The two most common approaches to Copeland Mountain are from the Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead and from the Finch Lake trailhead, both located in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park. The Wild Basin entrance to the Park is located on Colorado Highway 7, between Allenspark to the south and Meeker Park to the north. After turning west from Colorado 7, go for less than half a mile until you turn right at a sign indicating the Wild Basin entrance station. The Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead (8480 ft) is located at the end of the dirt road that starts at the entrance station. The Finch Lake trailhead (8460 ft) is along the same dirt road, about a quarter of a mile from its end. The trailhead is on the left (south) side of the road, indicated by a sign that is well visible. If you reach the bridge on the St. Vrain Creek you have gone too far. The dirt road is passable by passenger cars.

Red Tape

No permits are required for day hikes and climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is no parking fee. The entrance pass to the park is $20 per car and is valid for 7 days. The fee, however, is not collected before 6:30 AM. All park visitors should follow the Leave No Trace policy.

When To Climb

Spring to Fall. During the summer months, an early start is strongly advised to minimize the danger of lightning. (More people are killed in the U.S. each year by lightning than by hurricanes.) An ascent during the winter would be substantially more challenging than one during the summer: One should expect ice, strong winds, sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures, and frequent storms. Spring and Fall present the most variability. Summer conditions may prevail until October, or may be already gone by late August.


There are several camping sites within the park and specifically in Wild Basin. It is usually easier to get permits for Wild Basin than for the rest of the park. Details on locations, facilities, reservations, and fees can be found at the camping page of RMNP. Bivy information can also be found on the park's site.

Mountain Conditions

The park's contact information page lists useful numbers. Two webcams, one pointed at Longs Peak and the other at a stretch of the Continental Divide, allow one to get an idea of the conditions not far from Copeland Mountain. Detailed forecasts are provided by NOAA.
Never forget that the weather may change very rapidly in the high country. The temperature may drop by 50°F or more in a couple of hours. Those who have been caught out by such sudden changes without proper equipment and preparation have not always survived.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-5 of 5


RyanS - Sep 25, 2007 6:42 pm - Voted 10/10

Mount Clarence King

Not sure if you'd want to incorporate this or not, Fabio, but an old name for this mountain was Mount Clarence King, named for a geologist and mountaineer.

I noticed this on an old diagram on campus at DU. It points out the peaks you can see and the distances to them. I was like "Clarence King"? What peak is that? :)


brenta - Sep 26, 2007 10:03 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Mount Clarence King

Thanks, Ryan! I'll add a toponymy note. Any way to tell how old that diagram at DU is?


RyanS - Sep 27, 2007 6:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Mount Clarence King

I don't know, but it is right outside of the oldest building (1890s) on campus. I'll let you know if I find out someday.


CSUMarmot - Sep 1, 2010 8:43 pm - Hasn't voted


Clarence King was the name given by RMNP superintendent Roger Toll for what now is Isolation Peak


brenta - Sep 12, 2010 9:01 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Actually

This is what Roger Toll wrote in "Mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park" (1919):

"Prior to the publication of the United States Geological Survey map, Mount Copeland was known as Mount Clarence King, in honor of the eminent geologist who was the first director of the United States Geological Survey and the author of a classic entitled 'Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.' The change of name is regretted by most people who knew the peak as Mount Clarence King."

I have read about Toll's naming of Isolation Peak in Foster's guidebook, and I have no reason to doubt that account. In view of the above quote and of Toll's note in the same work "that the map shows an unnamed point over 13,000 feet in elevation a mile west of Mahana Peak," it appears that his intent was to redress the wrong done with the naming of Copeland in 1911.

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Copeland Mountain

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