Chiquita from the Western slope of Mt Chapin. (Courtesy of smudge)
Mount Chiquita has the honor of being the lowest 13’er in Rocky Mountain National Park and with only 2069’ of elevation gain (also last among RMNP 13’ers) along the standard route makes Chiquita arguably the easiest to climb. With several well used trails leading nearly to the top, climbing Mount Chiquita is an easy class 2 venture from the Chapin Pass trailhead, though alternate routes do exist. Though Chiquita is a worthy destination itself, the peak is often included as the second mountain in the CCY (Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon) and Mummy Mania peak-bagging routes, so the only way I can guarantee having the summit to yourself is if you summit sometime before Old Fall River Road is cleared or at the crack of dawn. Views from the summit abound in all directions, the best being of Ypsilon Mountain and Mount Chapin, but the view into Estes Park, the Never Summers, and the Medicine Bow range add to the allure.
Mount Chiquita 13069’ 2.4mi one-way 2069’ elevation gain
Standard Route (SW Slope): The most popular route up Chiquita starts at the Chapin Pass Trailhead on the upper reaches of Old Fall River Road (usually open by July 4th). To reach this trailhead, from either the Fall River (quickest) or Beaver Meadows entrance stations drive into Horseshoe Park and follow the small road that points to the Alluvial Fan. Pass the Lawn Lake TH, the Alluvial fan parking area and continue along the road until you see signs for Old Fall River Road and a small picnic area. This narrow one-way dirt road climbs about 3500 vertical feet where it connects to Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center. About 6 miles in, you will see the Chapin Pass Trailhead and pull-offs meant for about 20 cars. Please do a good job parking, pull well off the road and conserve as much of the scarce parking as possible for this popular trailhead!
The trail climbs steeply for .1 miles to a somewhat hidden intersection at Chapin Pass where signs point climbers to the right. Follow this trail for a quarter mile through the thinning trees and krummholz to a clearing and a sign that points right to ‘All Summits’. Though this is technically the trail, a smaller trail that splits off at this sign is perhaps the better route. The ‘All Summits’ trail climbs immediately onto the talus slopes of Mount Chapin and is more exposed to the weather, the undesignated trail stays relatively flat while staying low in the valley before climbing steeply to the Chapin-Chiquita saddle where it intersects with the ‘All Summits’ trail. I prefer the lower trail because it doesn’t cross talus; it’s less popular and avoids the cold biting winds frequent in the area.
'All Summits' intersection. I prefer the undesignated trail
At the Chapin-Chiquita saddle, the trail becomes much less defined and at times is nothing more than a ribbon of trampled tundra climbing 1000 feet to the summit. Though a trail really isn’t necessary, try to avoid trampling the tundra by following it as closely as possible. The summit has a large windbreak if you should get caught in the weather.
East Ridge (from Chipmunk Lake): This route is much less popular than the standard route and can be done before Old Fall River Road opens. Starting at the Lawn Lake TH, follow the trail approximately 1 mile to the Ypsilon Lake trail intersection. Cross Roaring River and climb along the trail for another 3.5 miles to Chipmunk Lake. From here, leave the trail and climb 1250 feet to Point 12005 on Chiquita’s east ridge. Skirt this ridge moving west and climb the final 1000 feet to the summit. Additional details here.
Orange is the standard route, green is the undesignated trail, red is the eastern ridge route, blue is the other parts of the CCY route.
Mount Chiquita lies within RMNP, so entrance fees do exist. Fees from the RMNP website:
Weekly: $20 - Valid for seven consecutive days, including date of purchase.
Rocky Mountain National Park Annual Pass: A $40 pass which provides unlimited entry to this park for one year from the date of purchase. Available at all Rocky Mountain National Park entrance stations or at 970-586-1438.
Near the summit of Chiquita (Courtesy of Bill Jirousek)
When To Climb
Chiquita can be climbed from the standard route between July and October, weather permitting. When Old Fall River Road is closed, your best bet is to climb the east ridge from the Lawn Lake TH unless you want to add an extra 6 miles to climb to Chapin Pass. If you plan to climb between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, you might be able to park at the Alpine Visitor Center and climb down to Chapin Pass, but only if Trail Ridge Road is open.
No matter when you climb, watch the weather patterns carefully and beware lightning. The west slopes of Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon gently decend 2000' to trees and offer no cover. If you are caught in a storm do not expect to just run into the trees and wait it out. If you hear thunder in the distance, just call it a day.
The nearest back country campsites are the Upper Chipmunk (Ypsilon Lake) and Chapin Creek (Poudre-Chapin confluence) sites. Neither are practical unless you plan on climbing other peaks in the area. As far as campgrounds, the Aspenglen Campground is the closest, right after the Fall River entrance station.
Dispersed Camping can be found in the Chiquita Creek(zone 2C) and Chapin Creek(Cache La Poudre zone 3H)drainages.
The best resource I have found for mountain conditions is the Trail Conditions report. It may not give specifics for the area, but it is a good start. For the condition of Old Fall River Road, check here.