Lake Isabelle (10,910′), Front Range

Lake Isabelle (10,910′), Front Range

Lake Isabelle (10,910′), Front Range

Lake Isabelle lies hidden in a high, isolated bowl-shaped basin at the top of the South St. Vrain drainage in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. It lies at tree-line in a stunning alpine valley surrounded by Navajo (13,409′), Apache (13,441′) and Shoshoni (12,967′) peaks. The Continental Divide is located just west of the lake, running along the high peaks above the valley.

Mitchell & Blue Lake and Mt Audubon, are also located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and also offer beautiful views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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Trail Directions

From the Long Lake Trailhead, the trail begins its relatively gentle ascent up to Long Lake. After a quarter-mile of trekking, the trail intersects the Jean Lunning Trail, which will take you to and around Long Lake.  This area is known for moose sightings. Avoid the Jean Lunning Trail and continue to the right uphill to Lake Isabelle.

After approximately 1 more mile, the trail intersects the Jean Lunning Trail for the second time.  Again, continue towards Lake Isabelle and Pawnee Pass, bypassing the Jean Lunning Trail.  Lake Isabelle is just another .9 miles beyond this trail junction. From the lake you have the option of continuing further up the trail to reach Isabelle Glacier.

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.

Trailhead Directions

Fremont Peak (7,273′), Royal Gorge

Fremont Peak (7,273′), Royal Gorge

Fremont Peak (7,273′), Royal Gorge

Fremont Peak is the high point along a narrow ridge of hills rising near the eastern edge of the Royal Gorge’s north rim. The desert peak is part of a very small sub-range of mountains called the Gorge Hills. These peaks are relatively low and are covered in desert flora. Great views of the Royal Gorge, the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, and Pikes Peak can be seen along the trail and summit.

Don’t miss the Elkhorn Loop Picnic Area and Overlook to get a closer look of the bridge and the Royal Gorge, only a couple minutes drive from the EastRidge Trailhead. Great views just steps from your car, check out the last two pictures.

Summers in this area can be dangerously hot, plan accordingly.

The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest bridge in the United States. It spans 880 feet across the Arkansas river at a height of 955 feet. Built in 1929, it was the highest bridge in the world until 2001.

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Trail Directions

From the Eastridge trailhead head downhill and to the left (heading south) to get on County Road 389B.

Folllow County Road 389B until it ends at the radio towers

From the end of the road, you will see Fremont Peak across a saddle to the southeast. Follow the the trail heading in that direction.

You quickly come across a trail junction with a sign for the Summit trail. Follow the trail towards the peak (southeast).

Once underneath the peak, pick a social path up the steep slope to the summit. There is no maintained trail.

Trailhead Directions

The Crags (10,856′), Front Range

The Crags (10,856′), Front Range

The Crags (10,856′), Front Range

The Crags Trail #664 follows Four Mile Creek through deep forests and lush meadows, ending at a rocky dome with unobstructed views in all directions. At the summit of the windswept dome there are views of the Rampart Range, Pikes Peak Mastif, Catamount Reservoirs, and distant mountain ranges to the west and north.

The majority of the Crags trail has a gentle elevation gain, with the first and last half-mile gaining the most elevation.

Another hike along the the flanks of Pikes Peak with very unique geological features is Pancake Rocks.

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Trail Directions

Take the clear and well-used path over a bridge and through the forest.

After climbing for 1/2 mile you will see the trail junction with the Devil’s Playground #664A, stay to the left on 664 to The Crags.

Continue following Fourmile Creek northeast through a valley. The trail will be wooded at first, but will eventually open up into a meadow with views of rocky cliffs and the rough western flank of Pikes Peak.

During the last 1/2 mile the trail re-enters the forest and gains elevation as it turns north along a small ridge.

The trail ends on the top of a rocky outcropping with excellent views all around.

Trailhead Directions

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. 

 

Trailhead Directions

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.

Trailhead Directions

St Vrain Mountain Trail (12,162′), Front Range

St Vrain Mountain Trail (12,162′), Front Range

St Vrain Mountain Trail (12,162′), Front Range

The St Vrain Mountain trail is located just outside the border of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area to the south, and Rocky Mountain National Park to the north. The trail climbs steeply heading west, just east of the Continental Divide, with views across the Middle St Vrain Creek drainage and the Wild Basin Area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Trail Directions

The trail climbs up the valley’s north side to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary. The trail then switchbacks hard left (west) one final time) before turning sharply south across the valley. Grades briefly moderate and then steepen back up the south valley wall, turning sharply south one last time before clearing treeline (2.65 miles : 10,765′).

Travel eases along a broad tundra saddle between the shoulders of Meadow Mountain (11,632′), an unnamed peak, and St Vrain Mountain. It reaches the Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary (3.15 miles : 11,180′) and levels for nearly half a mile on a south heading with some of the route’s best views. This section overlooks Rocky Mountain’s Wild Basin Area, Mount Copeland (13,176′), Ouzel Peak (12, 12,716′), Mahana Peak (12,632′), Longs Peak (14,259′) and Mt Meeker (13,911′).

Those not aiming for the summit will be content with views along this stretch. The trail exits Rocky Mountain National Park (3.6 miles : 11,335′) and threads a few pockets of krummholz to an unmarked turnoff for St Vrain Mountain. Leave the main trail (3.65 miles : 11,360′) and aim for a band of krummholz approximately 200 yards away. Once through look for cairns and, most importantly, Indian Peaks – Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary posts to your right (north).

St Vrain Mountain (4.45 miles : 12,162′) is rounded with 2 wind shelters and incredible views. Continuing takes you along its west ridge to the Elk Tooth formation and base of Ogallala Peak (13,138′) on the Divide.

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.

Trailhead Directions

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak, in the middle of the Sawatch Range, is known for it’s distinctive Ellingwood Ridge, popular among climbers. The Northwest Ridge trail starts from Highway 82 and follows the northern ridge that divides the La Plata basin from La Plata Gulch. There are several other routes to the summit, such as the Southwest Ridge. “La Plata” is Spanish for “The Silver”, a reference to the many silver deposits in the area.

The Sawatch Mountain Range is home to fourteen other 14,000′ peaks, such as Huron Peak, Mt Antero, Missouri Mountain, and the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Elbert.

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Know when to turn around. Turned around near 12,000′ due to heavy winds and low visibility, despite what initially appeared to be a picture perfect day.

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Trail Directions

From the trailhead hike east into the woods crossing South Fork Lake Creek. Turn right after the bridge and hike a small distance to cross La Plata Gulch on a smaller bridge. Head right and reach a small clearing almost 100 yards after the bridge crossing. In the clearing, there is a smaller trail that heads off to the east – stay right on the main trail. Eventually the trail has log and stone steps making a steep climb through the forest.

Climb briefly to a small, level area above 12,000′ where you will find a large square boulder near the trail. Turn left and climb to the northwest ridge. Next hike to the base of a large buttress and follow the trail as it turns right and climbs around to the west side of the ridge. If you lose the trail, turn left and climb directly up to the top of the ridge. As you near the top ,curve around to the west side, turn left and follow the trail to the summit.

Trailhead Directions

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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GPS Route with Elevation