Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 40.22700°N / 105.6196°W
County: Boulder
Activities: Hiking, Scrambling
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Elevation: 11724 ft / 3573 m


Mount Orton is a minor peak in Rocky Mountain National Park by nearly any definition. In fact, it might even stretch the definition of peak. However, it's named on the USGS maps, so I guess it counts. Mount Orton is the anchor point of the massive North Ridge of Chiefs Head, third highest peak in RMNP. Strangely, the North Ridge approaches Chiefs Head from the south east and is really more of a slope than a ridge. This implies that the "North" actually is in reference to modest Orton rather than the much more prominent peak almost 2000' higher!

In any case, Mount Orton is a knob of huge talus blocks perched at the end of the broad ramp above Sand Beach Lake. The summit provides a stunning vista of the Wild Basin to the south, Mounts Copeland and Alice to the west, and the mighty quartet of Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, and Chiefs Head to the north and east. It is, indeed, a great place to ponder higher goals.
Mount Orton panoramaNorth to the high peaks from Mount Orton's summit

Getting There

Mount Orton is most easily accessed from the Sand Beach Lake Trailhead in the Wild Basin section of RMNP. Hike 4.5 miles up a steady incline on the well-worn Sand Beach Lake Trail to the lake of the same name (10,200'). The summit of Orton is another mile from here and not visible from the lake, nor is there an established trail.

Hike around the north side of the lake and bushwhack up the obvious hill. Avoid the drainage due north of the lake as this leads up into the Keplinger Lakes cirque beneath Pagoda and Longs. Break out of the trees at about 11,000' and continue up open slopes with spectacular views of the south and east faces of Mount Meeker. As the slope eases, the summit appears as the highest of several rocky knobs.

Mount Orton summitApproaching the summit knob from Sand Beach Lake

Red Tape

Standard Rocky Mountain National Park regulations apply. Among these are
  • no pets on the trails
  • no fires, stoves only
  • see camping and backcountry permitting information below


    Camping requires a backcountry permit. In the summer (May 1 through October 1) these cost $20 per night and limit you to one of a number of well-marked primitive campsites. In the off-season, you can self-register at the trailhead for free. In this case, you are asked to camp elsewhere than the established sites. Bivy permits are available for climbers wishing to get an early start on alpine routes.

    Please read the RMNP Backcountry Guide for complete details and contact information.