Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak, viewed from east Rocky Mountain National Park, is distinctive with it’s slanted square structure towering over the landscape. As you near the summit however, the square melts away and you are left looking at a more traditional mountain silhouette. Rising along the Continental Divide, Hallett Peak divides Chaos Canyon to the south and Tyndall Gorge to the north.

The route to the summit first traverses the summit of Flattop Mountain on a well maintained trail. The Arapaho Indians called the Flattop Mountain corridor “The Big Trail”. The trail was formally constructed in 1925, was rehabilitated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940, and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Trail Directions

From Bear Lake take the well maintained Flattop mountain trail to the summit of Flattop Mountain. No maintained trail reaches Hallett Peak, so cross the saddle above Tyndall Glacier and scramble up steep talus to the summit.

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Lake Helene (10,630′), Front Range

Lake Helene (10,630′), Front Range

Lake Helene (10,630′), Front Range

There is no signage and you must follow a social trail to get to the lake, but despite it’s obscurity, Lake Helene is a spectacular destination inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake is situated at treeline, between Flattop Mountain (12,324′) and Notchtop Mountain (12,129′).

Even lesser known Two Rivers Lake is a short walk from Lake Helene, and also worth the visit while in the alpine valley.

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Trail Directions

Follow the Bear Lake trail for less than 1/2 mile to the Odessa Lake Trail Junction and take the trail to the right. The trail climbs above Bear Lake to the Flattop Mountain trail junction. Continue towards Odessa Lake, climbing through forests and meadows. After approximately 3.5 miles from the trailhead you will see social trails on your left for Lake Helene. The lake is partially concealed from the trail and spurs are fairly easy to miss. If you make a sharp hairpin turn north (right) and begin descending, you’ve passed it.

Two Rivers Lake is near treeline just downstream of Lake Helene. A thick forest and boulder field stand between the main trail and lake, making it easier to walk east from Lake Helene through the forest and meadows.

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Mills (9,965′) and Jewel (9,990′) Lake, Front Range

Mills (9,965′) and Jewel (9,990′) Lake, Front Range

Mills (9,965′) and Jewel (9,990′) Lake, Front Range

Located within Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park, Mills and Jewel Lake provide dramatic views of the surrounding peaks. The Longs peak area is prominently visible from the valley. The summer route initially takes you to Alberta Falls, another popular destination in the park.

Mills Lake is named in honor of Enos Mills (1870-1914), who is considered the father of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The view from Mills Lake towards Longs Peak is the image used on one side of the 2006 Colorado State Quarter.

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Trail Directions

The winter route was utilized , bypassing Alberta Falls and intersecting with the summer trail about 50 ft from the Loch Trail/Glacier Gorge intersection.

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Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha his a secluded, boulder-riddled lake in lower Chaos Canyon. Hallett Peak (12,713′) and Otis Peak (12,486′) tower over Lake Haiyaha on the Continental Divide, making for spectacular scenery.  Bouldering is a popular activity around the rocky lake.

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Trail Directions

The trail begins alongside Bear Lake and climbs westward towards Tyndall Gorge, passing Nymph Lake along the way. Past Nymph Lake the trails climbs again to Dream Lake.

Once there, the trail moves up a southward slope into the Chaos Canyon drainage and arrives at Lake Haiyaha, located at timberline along Chaos Creek. The lake and Chaos Canyon are known for excellent bouldering.

Trailhead Directions

Longs Peak (14,255′), Front Range

Longs Peak (14,255′), Front Range

Longs Peak (14,255′), Front Range

Iconic Longs Peak (14,259′) is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the northern most 14,000′ peak in the Rocky Mountains.

The peak is guarded by granite cliffs and does require Class 3 climbing, although the first 6.5 miles before the Keyhole are Class 2. Stepping through the Keyhole is an exhilarating experience, with thousand foot drop offs and endless views.

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Trail Directions

There are many spectacular ways to summit Long’s Peak, and this description highlights the “standard” Keyhole Route. The route has two sides to it, a long approach with a little scramble to the keyhole, and from the keyhole to the summit which is rated as a Class 3 Grade 3 scramble/climb.

The standard route on Longs Peak is called the Keyhole route and it is usually done in one very long day. It is the route described below.

From the East Longs Peak trailhead follow the well maintained trail through pine forests. You reach a trail junction to Eugenia Mine Trail/Storm Pass after 0.45 miles. Continue straight along the East Longs Peak trail as it turns southwest through dense forest, gaining elevation through steep switchbacks. As the trail turns west, you pass through Goblins Forest, 1.1 miles in, and cross small creeks before climbing more switchbacks. As you approach treeline, you cross beautiful Alpine Brook on a well maintained footbridge, 1.85 miles in.

Leaving Alpine Brook the trail travels south through krummholtz and provides beautiful views of Twin Sisters Peaks to the east. The trail eventually leaves the low growth stands of krummholtz behind and enters alpine tundra, providing spectacular views of Longs Peak Diamond, a 1,000′ sheer cliff. The trail moderately climbs until it reaches Jims Grove Trail Junction, and then turns southwest along the basin until it arrives at Mills Moraine.

Here, there is a trail junction with Chasm Lake 3.25 miles in. Continue to follow the the East Longs Peak trail as it turns northwest going around to the east of Mt Lady Washington, climbing to Granite Pass, 4.3 miles in. At a trail junction on Granite Pass, the North Longs Peak Trail merges from the north. Continue on the East Longs Peak trail as it swings southwest along switchbacks and eventually enters the Boulderfield at the base of Long’s north face, where the East Longs Peak trail ends at a campsite area 5.9 miles in.

From the end of the East Longs Peak trail, the next destination is the Keyhole (.4 miles) to the southwest across the Boulderfield. The Keyhole is a weakness in the ridge between Longs Peak and Storm Peak, providing the only non-technical passage to the west side of the mountain along this route.

Scramble across large granite boulders until close to the keyhole, where the last 100 yards become increasingly steep. The Keyhole is a striking rock feature with a large overhang and a rock shelter built along the southeast side. Stepping through the Keyhole is one of the major highlights of the trip. The spectacular Glacier Gorge with its beautiful lakes and 13,000′ peaks come into view along with a 3,000′ drop. The exposure feels big, and some decide that the Keyhole is far enough. Knowing when to stop is honored wisdom. The way forward from here is much more rugged and dangerous than what has been encountered so far, and marked only with bullseyes.

Once across the Keyhole, turn immediately to the (left) and locate “The Ledges” (0.4 miles, 120′ elev. gain), a horizontal route marked by red and yellow bullseyes. The Ledges gradually head south, up and down over the tops of massive slabs of granite that rise from the side of the mountain. There is a v-shaped notch between boulders, with an iron rod as an aid through the most difficult section.

Next, the Trough (0.3 miles, 600′ elev. gain) consists of steep, rock-filled gully. At the top there is a large boulder jammed between the walls of the Trough as it narrows, blocking the route. Getting around it is one of the most difficult parts of the route.

At the top of the Trough there is a rock shelf called The Narrows (0.2 miles, 120′ elevation gain) providing a route across the near shear south face of the mountain. The ledge is fairly narrow initially, giving this portion of the route its name.

The Homestretch (0.2 miles, 280′ elev. gain) is the last obstacle to the summit, and consists of mostly smooth exposed granite, steep enough to require scrambling on all fours. It is climbed north-northeast to the top of the mountain. A large cairn marks the gateway to the top. The large flat summit is covered with rough talus. Enjoy the incredible views!

Trailhead Directions

Flattop Mountain (12,332′), Front Range

Flattop Mountain (12,332′), Front Range

Flattop Mountain (12,332′), Front Range

Flattop Mountain is located just east of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail was built in 1925, and rehabilitated in 1940 with Civilian Conservation Corps labor. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The scenic trail has overlooks for Dream and Emerald Lake, and unmatched views of the Longs Peak area to the south. The trail is also used to to reach the summit of Hallett Peak.

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Trail Directions

From the trailhead immediately make a right turn onto the Bear Lake Loop Trail. After a short walk along the eastern shore of Bear Lake, make another right turn at the next junction. From here the trail ascends the slopes of the Bierstadt Moraine.

About .5 miles from the trailhead you’ll reach the Bierstadt Lake and Mill Creek Basin junction. Turn left and continue towards Flattop Mountain. The route turns west as it climbs higher and you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Longs Peak, the Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda Peak and Chiefs Head Peak towards the south. At just over 1 mile from the trailhead you will arrive at the Flattop Mountain Trail junction, which forks off to the left and begins ascending the eastern slopes of the mountain.

Once on the Flattop Mountain trail, the climb becomes steeper for the rest of the route. About 1.5 miles from the trailhead (~10,500 feet) you will reach the Dream Lake Overlook. Once leaving the Dream Lake overlook it’s a short hike to tree-line. Looking towards the east are views of Bierstadt Lake, Sprague Lake and much of the Glacier Basin area.

After about 3 miles from the trailhead you’ll reach the Emerald Lake Overlook. This scenic overlook rises more than 1,200′ above Emerald Lake. Continue on for less than a mile and you will be just below the summit of Flattop Mountain where there is a horse hitch. The slope begins to become more gradual and eventually leveling out. The end of the Flattop Mountain Trail is at the junction with the North Inlet Trail and Tonahutu Creek Trail. Although there are no signs indicating that you’re at the top, this is the unofficial summit of Flattop Mountain.

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Nymph (9,705′), Dream (9,905′), and Emerald Lake (10,110′), Front Range

Nymph (9,705′), Dream (9,905′), and Emerald Lake (10,110′), Front Range

Nymph (9,705′), Dream (9,905′), and Emerald Lake (10,110′), Front Range

Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake are located inside Rocky Mountain National Park, west of Estes Park. From the popular Bear Lake Trailhead, the trail passes Nymph and Dream Lake on the way to Emerald Lake.

There are prominent views along the way of Longs Peak, Glacier Gorge, Flattop Mountain, and Hallett Peak. If you have limited time to explore, this should be on your list for it’s beauty and accessibility, even in winter (additional gear required).

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Trail Directions

From Bear Lake the trail makes a steady climb up to the south side of Nymph Lake, which is usually filled with pond lilies in the summer. Once around the lake, follow the trail for a fairly steep climb for a short section. There are spectacular views of Longs Peak, Pagoda Mountain, Storm Peak, and the Keyboard of the Winds to your left.

At just over a mile you will reach the Lake Haiyaha junction. Stay to the right and you will arrive at Dream Lake after a short distance. Follow Dream Lake along it’s northern shore. The views here are spectacular.

Once past the lake the trail begins climbing a series of steps. On your left Tyndall Creek rushes down Tyndall gorge, and the jagged peaks of Flattop Mountain can be seen in front of you. Upon reaching Emerald Lake, 12,713′ Hallett Peak will be the mountain in front of you and on the right will be the jagged spires of 12,324′ Flattop Mountain.

Trailhead Directions

Estes Cone (11,007′), Front Range

Estes Cone (11,007′), Front Range

Estes Cone (11,007′), Front Range

Estes Cone is located about 3 miles from the Longs Peak trailhead on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The peak serves as a prominent landmark in the Tahosa Valley to the east.

The peak is named for one of the first settlers in Estes Valley, Joel Estes. The granite peak has a rocky outcrop on the summit that provides unobstructed views of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Trail Directions

The approach to Estes Cone from the Longs Peak trailhead is relatively easy with mild uphills until you reach the base of the mountain. Once you turn off the Storm Pass trail you will see cairns marking the turnoff to begin the steeper 800′ scramble to the top. Once you reach the base of the summit, head right of the rock wall to scramble to the summit.

Trailhead Directions

Sky Pond (10,900′), Front Range

Sky Pond (10,900′), Front Range

Sky Pond (10,900′), Front Range

Sky Pond, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, is fed by Taylor Glacier and forms the headwaters of Icy Brook. The lake occupies a cirque formed during advances and retreats of Taylor Glacier.

A little further down, Icy Brook drains into the Lake of Glass, after which the brook tumbles into the valley below as Timberline Falls. You most likely will also pass by Alberta Falls, in Glacier Gorge, on the way.

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Trail Directions

From the Glacier Gorge trailhead, your first destination is beautiful Alberta Falls, 0.85 miles in. Continuing on past the falls the trail has less traffic as it meanders along pine forests and switchbacks to the North Longs Peak Trail junction, 1.6 miles in.

Follow the signs for the Loch, heading west, climbing through dense forests. Glacier Gorge Junction will appear after the 2.1 mile mark, continue to follow the sign to The Loch. Climb steep switchbacks through heavy forest and you’ll next come upon Andrews Glacier Trail junction, 3.65 miles in. Continue straight (west) on the main trail. The trail eventually levels out at the Loch, 3 miles in at 10,200′.

From the Loch onward, the trail becomes rougher and less used. The trail follows Icy Creek through heavy woods along a canyon. As you walk, the breaks in the trees will reveal Timberline Falls in the distance, your next destination. To reach the alpine lakes, Sky Pond and Lake of Glass, you must climb up the side of the falls, which lies at the 4 mile mark.

Trailhead Directions

The best approach is to head for a relatively dry chute of the waterfall, on the right of the main flow. Scramble to the top, the steepness and wetness making it a challenge. The climb up Timberline Falls is the most difficult part of the route and does not exceed Class 3 in good conditions.

Once on top of Timberline Falls, the environment immediately changes to arctic tundra. The stark Lake of Glass (at the 4.15 mile mark) lies in front of you but the most noticeable effect is the harsher weather. There is a substantial temperature drop and the wind often blows relentlessly. Now is the time to add a layer of clothing and a windproof shell.

From the Lake of Glass, cross smooth granite slabs westward along the shore and pick up the rough trail. The trail follows Icy Brook to a beautiful waterfall and Sky Pond. Reaching Sky Pond, 4.6 miles in, you are at the base of Taylor Glacier and surrounded by Taylor Peak (13,153), Powell Peak (13,208) and The Sharktooth (12,630).

Twin Sisters (11,428′), Front Range

Twin Sisters (11,428′), Front Range

Twin Sisters (11,428′), Front Range

The Twin Sisters ridge runs nearly two miles along the east central boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park. From the summit there are panoramic views of the eastern plains and Rocky Mountain National Park, including Longs Peak and Mt Meeker.

The heavy rains in 2013 caused a significant rockslide, which destroyed three of switchbacks in the trail. Most hikers cross the slide area, although there is a steeper social trail that allows you to climb above the the rubble before heading further south.

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Trail Directions

The trail climbs through endless switchbacks in a lodgepole pine forest before opening onto a boulder field above timberline. A significant portion of the trail passes through Rocky Mountain National Park. Near the summit there is a radio tower and stone building, a weather vane, and solar cell panels.

From there, reaching the summit requires an additional rock scramble up a short trail. From the summit there are panoramic views of the eastern plains, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Longs Peak. Twin Sisters trailhead is located on national park land.

Trailhead Directions

Alberta Falls (9,400′), Front Range

Alberta Falls (9,400′), Front Range

Alberta Falls (9,400′), Front Range

Alberta Falls, located in Glacier Gorge, is one of the more popular hiking destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenic 30-foot waterfall thunders down a small gorge along Glacier Creek, with the short trail following Glacier Creek to the falls. The falls are fed by snow melt year around, being most dramatic in the late spring and early summer.

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Trail Directions

The trail starts at Glacier Gorge trailhead and heads south, paralleling the creek. At about 0.3 miles, the trail intersects with two others, one branching back toward the north to Sprague Lake. Continue on to the Bear Lake junction turning left.

The trail passes several aspen groves, and into a pine forest. The trail parallels Glacier Creek to the falls, a short .6 mile walk on an excellent path. On arrival you will see Alberta Falls roar through a granite chute just off the trail.

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