Mt Ida (12,880′), Front Range

Mt Ida (12,880′), Front Range

Mt Ida (12,880′), Front Range

The Mt Ida trail, at Milner Pass, is one of Rocky Mountain Park’s most scenic alpine treks. The trail has spectacular views that include tundra flats, panoramic views across the Never Summer Mountain Range, and 360 degree views of Rocky Mountain National Park from the summit.

Officially there is no trail to the summit, but well-established hiking paths make the trek straightforward. Be aware that many cairns and social trails begin to spindle off the main route near the summit, which can be confusing. However, since you’re above treeline, it shouldn’t be hard to piece together the final part of the route. 

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Trail Directions

Start from Poudre Lake Trailhead at Milner Pass (Continental Divide) and head northeast toward Poudre Lake. Hike past the southern shore of Poudre Lake and follow steep switchbacks through the forest. Keep to the right and follow the sign toward Mt Ida at the first junction. Ascend up a deep forest, heading to the western side of the ridge as you make your way to tree line.

Once above tree line, the views of The Never Summer mountains to the northwest are incredible. Continue over intermittently steep slopes and flat trail. Eventually boulder fields will begin to appear, so it may be tricky to find a steady trail to the top. Stay to the right on the way up to avoid the more difficult sections and the cliffs. The summit provides beautiful 360 degree views of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Bierstadt Lake (9,470′), Front Range

Bierstadt Lake (9,470′), Front Range

Bierstadt Lake (9,470′), Front Range

Bierstadt Lake sits atop a forested moraine, which is a ridge composed of material left behind thousands of years ago by receding glaciers. The lake was formed when a dam was made from glacial debris deposits. Water from the lake drains into Mill Creek within the Mill Creek basin, a flat valley with a scenic meadow.

The lake’s east end provides the best look at the Continental Divide, with standouts such as Otis Peak (12,486′), Hallet Peak (12,713′)Flattop Mountain (12,324′), Ptarmigan Point (12,363′) and Notchtop Mountain (12,129′).

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Trail Directions

An uphill 1.4-mile (2.3 km) trail with switchbacks that begins at the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead. A 0.6-mile (0.97 km) trail encircles the subalpine lake, which has a sandy beach along the eastern portion, offering the most spectacular views.

Most of the elevation gain occurs in the first three-quarters of a mile. You enter a pine forest which turns to sage with unobstructed views as you gain elevation. At the top of the moraine the trail transitions back into a dense forest again. The trail gets relatively flat as you continue to the lake.

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.

On the way to Estes Cone you will pass by the old Eugene Mine area, of which there is almost no trace left. Moving on you end up at Storm Pass, after which the steepest part of the hike begins. Just before reaching the summit you will hit a cliff band. Head to the right  and there will be a weakness in the wall that you can scramble up to the summit.

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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.

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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.

Trailhead Directions

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

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

Mills Lake (9,965′) & Jewel Lake (9,990′), 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. Inspired and enouraged by John Muir, Enos Mills  campaigned to see these mountains in Colorado protected as a national park, a fight he won in 1915.

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

From Glacier Junction, head south for less than a mile, where you’ll come across Alberta Falls. At 1.6 miles you will arrive at the North Longs Peak Trail junction. To continue on towards your destination turn right here. It’s another 2 miles to Mills Lake from here. Once at the lake it’s another .4 miles to Jewel Lake, most of the distance is walking along the shore of Mills Lake. 

 

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Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha is a secluded, boulder-riddled lake in lower Chaos Canyon. Hallett Peak (12,713′) and Otis Peak (12,486′) tower over the lake, and are situated on the Continental Divide, making for spectacular scenery.  The shores of the lake are home to some of the oldest trees in Rocky Mountain National Park. The final .25 mile approach to the shore is guarded by large boulders requiring minor scrambling to reach the lake. 

Haiyaha is an indigenous word that means “rock” or “lake of many rocks”, or “big rocks”, depending on the translation.

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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.

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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!

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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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