Snowdrift from Bighorn Flats-Photo Courtesy of Nelson
Snowdrift Peak is the beautifully snow-bound peak straddling the west side of the Continental Divide to the northwest of Flattop Mountain
in Rocky Mountain National Park
. Situated west of the Divide, it receives more precipitation, and thereby retains its snowcover longer than many higher peaks in the park. Also because it sits west of the Divide, it is not visible from any populated areas, and only is visible once on top of the Divide.
It is most easily accessed via the Flattop Mountain Trail, but it is still a very remote peak. From Bear Lake, Snowdrift will still be a 16 mile round trip. For this reason, Snowdrift is not climbed very often, and even does not rate a climbing description in the RMNP climbing guide by Kent & Donna Dannen. However, it will be an exceptionally beautiful experience, because once on top of Flattop Mountain
, you will traverse the Big Horn Flats for another 3 miles to the base of the peak. Above 12,000 for the entire traverse, you will be treated to extraordinary views and the marvelous tundra and flowers of the Big Horn Flats.
Snowdrift from East-Photo Courtesy of brenta
Snowdrift from East-Photo Courtesy of cwoods17
From Estes Park, drive to the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park
. Unless you are arriving very early in the morning, you will not be able to park at Bear Lake due to the number of cars visiting the area. Instead, before reaching Bear Lake, follow the signs to the shuttle bus parking lot, which will drop you off at Bear Lake.
Hike the Flattop Mountain
Trail to the summit of Flattop Mountain
. This is certainly one of the most popular trails in the park, and it will be very crowded. Reach the summit of Flattop Mountain
(12,324 ft.) in 4.4 miles, gaining 3,000 feet in the process.
Now, leave the crowds behind. Head northwest over the Big Horn Flats, an expansive alpine plateau located entirely above timberline. The summit of Snowdrift will be visible only once on top of Flattop Mountain
. Travel over largely flat terrain for 3 miles, before dropping 500 feet from the Flats to the base of Snowdrift Peak. Climb the snowy east flank of the peak to reach the Southeast Ridge. Climb this snow ridge to the summit (easy, class 2). An ice ax may be useful in early season; otherwise, no equipment is necessary.
Red Tape & Camping
Access to Rocky Mountain National Park costs $20 for a one-week pass. This pass is good at any US National Park. Additionally, one can purchase an Interagency Pass ($80/year) good at any US National Park, or good to park at any US Wilderness trailhead.
Camping is allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park
, but not in the Bear Lake Area. For information on camping, contact the Park Service at:
Rocky Mountain National Park- Park Service Site
When To Climb
Snowdrift in 1974
South Ridge Snowdrift - July 1974
Snowdrift Peak is best climbed during the regular climbing season, May through October. However, lightning storms are an ever-present threat in the Colorado Rockies, and owing to the highly exposed nature of this climb (10 miles round trip above timberline), it is HIGHLY recommended that you get a very early start to beat the afternoon thunderstorms. Ideally, you should plan to summit Snowdrift before 10:00 A.M. so that you can be off of the Big Horn Flats and below timberline on Flattop Mountain before the early afternoon.
You can call the Park Service directly for trail and snow conditions at: 970-586-1206.
You can also obtain camping, climbing and hiking information from the Park Service website at:
Rocky Mountain National Park-Park Service Site
A nice webcam pointed directly at the Big Horn Flats from the Estes Park Library can be seen here at:
Big Horn Flats Web Cam