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Lots of questions about Rocky Mountain National Park
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Mike Schmid
(untoastytoast) - F
Lots of questions about Rocky Mountain National Park on 05/05/2011 21:33:37 MDT Print View

I'm looking to plan a trip there in mid July this year. I'm basically just looking for any experiences this forum has with good routes there, any planning tips, etc.

I'd like to backpack for about 4 days, and cover 10 miles each day. Is there usually still snow above the treeline in July?

I've been backpacking before, but this is the first trip I'm actually going to plan and finance myself, and I'm a little overwhelmed right now.

Any experiences, suggestions, tips would be welcome. Thanks!

Mike Schmid
(untoastytoast) - F
forgot on 05/05/2011 21:37:07 MDT Print View

Also, if there are any good trail books or atlases that anyone can mention, that would be a great help for me as well.

billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
This would be rad: on 05/05/2011 22:11:27 MDT Print View

There is year-round snow in the Park but by July all trails will be clear and dry.

Day 1: First thing in the AM get a backcountry permit at Beaver Meadows (make sure to get a car tag) and drive down to the Longs Peak TH. Hike in to Chasm Lake, have lunch. Backtrack out to the CL cutoff and hike up to the Boulderfield and camp for the night. If you have extra time in the evening jog up to Chasm View and look over the edge. This will only be about 6-7 miles but it will be very strenuous/at altitude so it will serve for a good acclimation. The trail is a superhighway and there will be a million other people so you can't get lost. The views will be mind-boggling and by early evening all the people will disappear, but you will still be up there! Sweet!

Day 2: In the morning, tag the summit of Longs via the Keyhole Rte. (some third class, but well marked and traveled - the day hikers will wake you up as they pass the Boulderfield at some ungodly hour, but you will laugh because you didn't have to get up at 3 AM), then descend down into Glacier Gorge (this bit is tricky and off-trail, but no more difficult than third class). Have lunch in GG, then hike out the GG trail until its intersection with the Loch Vale trail. Head up this and bivy at Sky Pond (no tents here but great, sheltered bivy spots). From the summit of Longs this day is almost entirely downhill - sweet! 8ish pretty hard miles.

Day 3: Sleep in, explore, then backtrack out just a little bit and then hike up towards Andrews Glacier. Ascend Andrews Glacier (20 degrees max, 0 avy danger, super easy - can be done with running shoes in perfect conditions, light crampons might be nice, an axe is almost certainly optional although trekking poles would be a good idea) to the Divide, and either head down to the Flattop Mt. Trail or, better, follow the Divide north joining up with the Flattop trail later. Spend some time exploring up there, or tag some summits. Camp somewhere up on the Divide (consider departing the Flattop Trail to the north or west) - much less people on this day - sweet! 5 to 6ish moderate miles.

Day 4: Sleep in, then descend the Flattop Trail until a junction with the trail to Fern Lake. Follow this past Fern Lake and The Pool to the Fern Lake TH. Hitchhike back to your car at the Longs TH (should be easy). Drive back up and eat dinner at Ed's Cantina in Estes or continue down and eat dinner at the Mt. Sun in Boulder - sweet! 8ish easy miles.

This route involves lots strenuous hiking at elevation (but relatively low mileage), 95% on trail/15% off trail travel, a very easy snowfield crossing (Andrews Glacier), and a few sections of 3rd class and exposure. There is a section where you will likely not see another human, and that's along the Divide above Andrews Glacier - don't know if that freaks you out or not. The section descending into Glacier Gorge (requires good route finding skills but isn't too hard). You'll need a backcountry permit for the camping. Bears shouldn't be a problem in any of these spots. Marmots during the day and wood rats at night can be an issue if your foot or sweaty belongings are unattended.

Edit:
I just re-read your description where you mention you don't have a lot of experience - this particular route might not be a good idea. I'm a climber first, hiker second so sometimes I forget what people are after! Ah, Google it and see what you think for yourself. This route is cool b/c you get to summit a 14er (and do the most popular hike in RMNP), have lunch in the two most ridiculously amazing places in the Park (Chasm Lake and Glacier Gorge), and spend some time up on the Divide. The crux will be finding the route down into Glacier Gorge from the summit of Longs. Andrews Glacier is snow walking - no big deal. Other cruxes may be hiking at altitude, afternoon thunderstorms, and the mosquitos around Black Lake. Most of your time will be spent between 9000-12000'.

I've spent a ton of time up there so if you need any help with planning, just post specific questions.

Edited by billygoat on 05/05/2011 23:21:37 MDT.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
RMNP on 05/06/2011 11:27:17 MDT Print View

Longs Peak is certainly memorable, but I find it is way too crowded for my tastes. Even the parking lot can be a bit overwhelming.
Others may not mind.
As an aside, if you do the Longs Peak idea, book the Boulder field early. There is a relatively narrow window for doing Longs Peak in non-technical conditions and the Boulder Field camps do fill up.



This is a loop I have enjoyed over the years personally in RMNP
http://www.pmags.com/backpacking-loops-%E2%80%93-mags-favorites#bear-lake-to-grand-lake-loop

There are others, too. :) My favorite loops tend to be off-trail, but if you are not familiar with the park, may be best to stick to trails.

Edited by PaulMags on 05/06/2011 11:32:39 MDT.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Longs Peak is a terrible idea on 05/06/2011 13:57:28 MDT Print View

Sorry, IMO camping in the Boulder field is simply a very bad idea on your first unacclimated night. Longs Peak itself is not a backpack trip, it's a climb and doubtful that it is what you were looking for in the original post based on your brief description. I would strongly suggest talking with a Ranger, they are extremely helpful and would give you the very best information for the experience you are looking for. Sounds like you are not interested in peak bagging if you want to hike 10 miles a day between camp sites.

Cheers, Randy

Edited by randalmartin on 05/06/2011 14:12:19 MDT.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Here is a smaller loop hike of 19 miles on 05/06/2011 14:11:12 MDT Print View

Check out this loop hike in the Never Summer Wilderness on the west side of the park.

http://bp2.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip.aspx?tripId=31040

Perhaps you can combine a second loop hike with this one and create something that will meet your overall distance goal or maybe choose to stay two nights in one nice location along the loop and do a day hike and returning before continuing on your loop the next day.

Jason McSpadden
(JBMcSr1) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: questions about RMNP on 05/06/2011 15:07:01 MDT Print View

+1 on the Bowen/Baker loop! Beautiful scenery, you get to get on top a couple of times. Moose a plenty!

Mike Schmid
(untoastytoast) - F
Re: Here is a smaller loop hike of 19 miles on 05/06/2011 22:56:33 MDT Print View

First of all I wanted to say thanks to everyone for their input. Yeah i think it would be a great idea to take the first loop (bear lake to grand lake) and connect it to the bowen/baker gulch loop for a total of around 50 miles of hiking in 4-5 days. I've been studying the map, and really the only flaw in this plan is getting from the green mountain trailhead to the bowen/baker trailhead. I read something on the park website about the forest service running free shuttles throughout the park, is this true? because that would be a lot easier than hitchhiking. or i could just take it with a grain of salt and walk the three miles on the road.