Lulu Mountain sits on the very northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Never Summer Range. Its southern slopes are in RMNP, and its northern slopes are in Colorado State Forest. Lulu Mountain is not a very impressive or significant peak, but it was there so I climbed it. Lulu Mountain does offer spectacular views of the American Lakes basin, Nokhu Crags
, Static Peak, Mount Richthofen
, and the rest of the Never Summer Range stretching to the south.
From Thunder Pass, the grassy slopes of Lulu Mountain make for a relatively easy stroll up to the summit (about 1000’ of elevation gain). There are a few cairns to mark the way, but there is no trail nor is one needed. Just choose the path of least resistance and chug along. The last 100’ or so consists of some loose talus. Most of this can be avoided by circling around to the north face and climbing up that. There is a windbreak on the summit, but I could not find a summit log.
The most straightforward way to ascend Lulu Mountain is from Thunder Pass. There are several ways to get to Thunder Pass. From the north, it’s about a 5-mile hike from American Lakes Trailhead to Thunder Pass. From the east, you can start at the end of Long Draw Road. From the south you can start from Colorado River Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road.
American Lakes Trailhead:
From Fort Collins go north on Highway 287 to “Ted’s Place” and turn west onto Highway 14. Follow Highway 14 for 62 miles over the top of Cameron Pass. Turn left off Highway 14 at the sign for Lake Agnes and American Lakes. This turn off is 2 miles west from the top of Cameron Pass. This left turn is well marked. Once you've dropped into the valley, you'll need to stop at a fee station. See the RED TAPE section. Proceed up the road, staying left. In less than a mile you’ll run into a gate and the parking area at the trailhead.
End of Long Draw Road:
From Fort Collins go north on Highway 287 to “Ted’s Place” and turn west onto Highway 14. Take Highway 14 west up Poudre Canyon to near the top of Cameron Pass (somewhere around 55 miles). Look for signs on the left indicating Long Draw Road. If you pass Joe Wright Reservoir you know you’ve gone too far. Go south on Long Draw Road past Long Draw Reservoir to where the road dead-ends. Long Draw Road is probably closed during the winter. Contact Forest Service Canyon Lakes Ranger District to confirm that it’s open.
Colorado River Trailhead:
From Estes Park take Highway 36 through Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Highway 36 becomes Highway 34 and is known as Trail Ridge Road. Follow Trail Ridge Road over the continental divide. When the road drops down along the Colorado River look for the Colorado River Trailhead on your left. Note that Trail Ridge Road is closed all winter and can close at any time (even during the summer) due to bad weather. Contact Rocky Mountain National Park if you think there is any risk of it being closed.
Colorado State Forest:
Backcountry camping is allowed anywhere in Colorado State Forest as long as campsites are 200 ft from any major body of water (campfires are not allowed). Crags Campground is also near the American Lakes Trailhead and has some facilities.
Rocky Mountain National Park:
Backcountry camping only allowed in designated spots and requires a permit. Timber Creek Campground is also near the Colorado River Trailhead.
Fishing in the area is excellent! The American Lakes are full of cutthroat trout. When I got there I already had a little beadhead zugbug tied onto my line so I tossed it out there and immediately started pulling in fish. I fished all day with the same fly and had no reason to change it. I must have caught 20 fish that afternoon and almost every one of them was over 10".
The fish were rising like mad too, so I'm sure I would have done equally well on dry flies. There were other people there fishing on lures and they looked to be doing just about as well as I was.
I talked with a guy that was fishing Snow Lake. He was using dry flies and got skunked that particular day. However, he said he’d been coming up to Snow Lake for many years and often caught trout as big as 18” in Snow Lake.
For a photo of some of the fish I caught at American Lakes and some other photos of the lakes check out the Nokhu Crags
There are no permits necessary to climb Lulu Mountain However, both Colorado State Forest and RMNP are fee areas. Day use in Colorado State Forest is $5 (and is good until noon the following day). Day use in RMNP is $15 per vehicle (and is good for 7 days). Camping in the backcountry of RMNP is only allowed in designated campsites and requires a permit.
When To Climb/Mountain Conditions
Lulu Mountain is best climbed July through October to avoid large amounts of snow. However, the American Lakes basin is a popular winter destination for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. An ascent of Lulu Mountain is possible year round.
For up-to-date mountain conditions try contacting Colorado State Forest or Rocky Mountain National Park. The following weather forecast gives info for the town of Gould, Colorado which sits in North Park on the west side of Cameron Pass.
Colorado State Forest:
2746 County Road 41
Walden, Colorado 80480
Rocky Mountain National Park:
1000 Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517-8397
VISITOR INFORMATION: 970-586-1206
CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS: 800-365-2267
USDA FS Canyon Lakes Ranger District:
1311 South College
Fort Collins, Colorado 80524
PHONE: (970) 498-2770
TTY: (970) 498-2727
FAX: (970) 498-2769