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.
Destination: Hallett Peak Trailhead: Bear Lake Round trip: 10 miles / 16.1 km Elevation: 9,475′ – 12,713′ (+3,238′)/ 2,888m – 3,875m (+987m)
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.
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.
Destination: Lake Helene Trailhead: Bear Lake Round trip: 7.2 miles / 11.6 km Elevation: 9,475′ -10,630′ (+1,155′)/ 2,888m-3,240m (+352m)
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.
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 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.
Destination: Mills & Jewel Lake Trailhead: Glacier Gorge Trailhead Round trip: Jewel Lake 6 miles/ 9.6 km Elevation: 9,240′-9,990′ (+750′) / 2,816 m – 3,045 m (+229 m)
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.
The first ascent is unrecorded, as Ute and Arapahoe Indians used a trail over Flattop to cross the Continental Divide for hundreds of years.
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).
Trailhead: Bear Lake
Round trip: Nymph 1.1 miles, 1.8 km / Dream 2.2 miles, 3.5 km / Emerald 3.5 miles, 5.6 km
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.