July 29, 2012

RMNP Over Night: North Inlet to Bear Lake

Longs Peak from Flattop Peak

I was dropped off at North Inlet Trail-head (near Lake Granby) at 13:00 and hiked 1,000 feet and 7.5 miles to North Inlet Junction Camp, where I spent the night.

En route to camp, I spotted a moose in the brush lying down chewing his cud.  Despite their size, a moose is a master of disguise.

The North Inlet Trail follows the North Inlet River for 8 miles before heading up into the high country. Along the river, there were a lot of very cool features, pools, waterfalls, and rock formations.  This is Cascade Falls:

After breaking camp and climbing above the North Inlet River looking down.

After leaving the North Inlet River, the trail climbs, 3,000 feet out of the tree line and over the Continental Divide.

Once up the Continental Divide, I hiked down the eastern side with my final destination to be Bear Lake, 10.1 miles from camp. On the way down there was an overlook of Emerald Lake with Longs Peak in the background.

July 26, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park Day One - Travel

Somewhere, Utah

This was happening in the hotel room: 3 to 6 AM
A sixteen hour drive with two kids and three adults with no room to spare sounds nightmarish, but it didn't go so bad.  There were some moments, but I can't fault anybody for being stuck inside a metal box that long without going a little crazy; especially a two year old made from my DNA.

Somewhere in Nevada

Landon Montgomery
Overall it went very well.
Sleep for the weary

July 19, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park: Beaver Mountain Fire

Currently there is a fire in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  As of this writing (July 19, 2012), the fire is nearing containment: Story 1.  Lightening was suspected to be the cause: Story 2.

The Ute Trail that I summarized in the Select Trails section of the blog, was closed and has recently been opened:

The Ute Trail has reopened Beaver Mountain Fire

This fire in no way should impact any of our plans.

July 17, 2012

Longs Peak Prep: Current Condition

I found a recent post on twitter with a picture of Jacob on top of Long's Peak:

Enjoying the view from Longs Peak Summit. Elevation 14,259 ft.

So I asked him:

sweet. much snow? crampons? what time u start? finish?

And he answered:

no snow on the path.. started at 4:30 and driving away at 3... helluva day :) 

thanks, that is what i wanted to hear, glad it went well

I informed him that I used his picture:

i am gearin up to climb longs with a group of guys, hope u dont mind but i used ur photo in my blog:

He left me with this warning:
it was a really nice hike... a bit more than I bargained for after the key hole, but a lot of fun. Glad you can use the photo

For the most current Longs Peak weather condition, CLICK HERE.

July 16, 2012

Longs Peak Prep: Altitude Sickness

On July 22, 2011, a 26 year old man from Wichita, KA experienced life threatening high altitude sickness while attempting to climb Longs Peak.  The man fell ill on July 21 and descended from his summit attempt to the Boulderfield where he spent the night.  On the morning of the 22nd, when it was apparent his symptoms of an altered consciousness were not lessening, an emergency call was made which resulted in a helicopter rescue.  It was speculated that without the emergency rescue, the man may have died.

What is altitude sickness?

At an increased elevation, the air pressure decreases resulting in less oxygen per breath.  A lack of oxygen to the muscles and brain can cause altitude sickness.    Symptoms can be felt as low as 6,500', but usually minor effects will be experienced at 10,000' when climbing rapidy without acclimating; more serious symptoms at 12,000'.  Altitude sickness if severe enough and not treated can result in death.  Some common symptoms:
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • stomach ache
  • dizziness
  • nosebleed
  • swelling of hands/feet   

How to acclimate?

  • ascend slowly
  • spend time at high altitudes
  • aspirin to thin the blood
  • water
  • caffeine (mountain dew)

How to react?

If a climber begins to experience some of the symptoms and is below 15,000', it is best to stop and rest, drink water and assess the symptoms.  Is it persistent?  Is it getting worse?  If so, it is be best to get to a lower elevation.  In many cases, assessing your own symptoms is not recommended.  Altitude sickness can weaken good judgement and analysis of reality.  In my own experience, thinking and senses become foggy. 

Good preparation and good judgement will greatly decrease someone in the climbing party from suffereing altitude sickness.

July 13, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park: Area Attractions Other Than Hiking

Scenic drives, fishing, museums, river rafting/tubing, and a brewery make up a short list of some of the area attractions other than hiking.

Scenic Drives

Old Fall River Road is a one way dirt road northwest of Estes Park inside the Fall River Entrance along Trail Ridge Road.  The road travails along a canyon carved out by the Fall River.  Along the route, turnouts are available to create a base of exploration.  Several stops are at waterfalls.  There are no guard rails and lots of twists, bends, and long drops.  After a handful of miles (the road is 11 total miles), it leaves the canyon and peaks out at 11,796' in elevation above the river.  The drive offers very good wildlife viewing opportunities.  Fishing is allowed all along the river.


There is a whole bunch of fishing in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Most of it is trout (brook, Cotherelorado River cutthroat, greenback cutthroat, rainbow).  There are varying guidelines for how you fish depending on what lake you are fishing at.  Rather then break it all down.  Here is a link to a brochure detailing the various rules for each lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  License for five days is $21; you can purchase online.  Fly fishing is very popular in the rivers.


Estes Park Museum
Permanent and temporary exhibits on the history of the area. Free Admission.
200 4th Street
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-6256
Moraine Park Museum
Moraine Park Museum & Visitors Center focuses on naturalist displays.
Located on Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO  
(970) 586-1206
MacGregor Ranch Museum
Preserving Colorado's homesteading & ranching heritage
180 MacGregor Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-3749
Historic Fall River Hydroplant
This Hydroplant was built by F.O. Stanley to power his famous Stanley Hotel in 1909
1754 Fish Hatchery Road
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-6256 | (970) 577-3761 | (970) 577-3762 | (970) 577-3766
Stanley Museum
Area History pertaining to F.O. Stanley's life in Estes Park including photography, music, steam cars, and antiques.
333 Wonderview Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 577-4110 | 1(800) 976-1377

River Rafting

River rafting or river tubing is popular in the summer.  The Colorado River, Poudre River, and Clear Creek are all suitable for river trips.  The Poudre River is more advanced and requires professional guides for approximately $100 per person.  Per Lyle the Rocky Mountain Ranger, any of the rivers on the park can be used for recreational river tubing.  However, and also per Lyle the Ranger, the Rocky Mountains received only 35% of the average snowfall over this past winter and the rivers are not flowing at full capacity and may be slow and/or too shallow.


Estes Park Brewery - best beer in Estes Park (supposedly)

July 12, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park: Select Trails

Rocky Mountain National Park, as I have been learning, is chock full of spectacular hikes.  Creating a select list of trails is very difficult.  There are so many to explore and favor.  Each hike that I fancy presents itself more favorably then the last.  After much thought and deliberation, I have selected five different hikes to highlight.  One that consummates to a summit.  Two that end at lakes, one of which passes a waterfall.  One that climbs along a river to a waterfall.  And one meandering valley trail that passes through alpine pastures that may offer views of grazing elk.

Deer Mountain

Trailhead - Deer Ridge Junction: accessed via car on the Trail Ridge Road 3 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station at the Trail Ridge Road and Highway 34 split
Distance - 6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain - 8,930' - 10,013 (1,236' total elevation gain)
Description - Deer Mountain is at the top of a ridge that splits two meadows offering great panoramic views of the surrounding area including Longs Peak and Estes Park, the majority of the climb is in the first two miles after which trail follows the ridge; binoculars recommended
Link to more info

                                                                 Fern Lake/Fern Waterfall


Trailhead Fern Lake: accessed via car 4.1 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station
Distance - 7.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain - 8,165' - 9,520' (1,481' elevation change)
Description -this hike follows the Big Thompson River as it moderately climbs to Fern Lake, all along this River, there is reportedly great fishing, but catch and release only; 2.65 miles into the hike is Fern Falls; Fern Lake is 1.2 miles further; there are several lakes in the area

Lake Helene

Trailhead -  Bear Lake: accessed via shuttle bus from the Moraine Park Visitor Center
Distance - 6.3 miles roundtrip
Elevation - 9,475' - 10,692' (1,294' elevation change)
Description - a well marked and busy trail that ends at a lake that is surrounded by 12,000' feet mountains on three sides (Flattop Mt, Notchtop Mt, Ptarmigan Pt), the trail is steep, but moderate in that it is a little over three miles one way,  there is fishing allowed at this particular lake, but catch and release only

Bridal Veil Falls


Trailhead - Cow Creek: accessed via car north of Estes Park on Devil's Gulch Road
Distance - 6.1 miles 
Elevation Gain - 7,855' - 8,775 (920' elevation gain) 
Description - a moderate trail that follows Cow Creek, and climbs into granite rock formations of a range called Lumpy Ridge, the area is home to large raptor birds living in the rocks; there are several valley overlooks offering wildlife viewing opportunities; bring binoculars 

Ute Trail to Timberline Pass 


Trailhead - Ute: accessed via car on Trail Ridge Road 13.4 miles from the Beaver Meadow Entrance
Distance - 4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain- 11,465' - 11,656 (472' elevation gain)
Description - this trail follows a route that was used by Indians when hunting game and is fairly easy traveling across an alpine tundra meadow above the tree line;  there are great chances of seeing elk and other large game out to pasture; there are great views of the Big Thompson River and its canyon below this flat tundra; bring binoculars 

July 11, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park: Trails for Kids

Rocky Mountain National Park is 415 square miles of wilderness that contains over 350 miles of hiking trails.  The cost to enter the park and access these trails is $20 per vehicle for a one week pass or $40 for an annual pass.   

Of these 300 miles of trails, there are several hikes that are suitable for flat landers and children.  I have summarized some of them here:

Bear Lake Trail

Trail head - Bear Lake: accessed via Shuttle bus  from the Moraine Park Visitor Center, which is only several miles from our chalet (whatever that is)
Distance - 0.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain - none
Description - mountain lake at elevation 8,500 feet with an interpretative nature trail that circles the lake, this trail is considered to be heavy use, meaning, lots of people, but very kid friendly

                                                Alberta Falls

Trailhead - Glacier Gorge: accessed via shuttle bus from the Moraine Park Visitor Center, which is only several miles from our chalet (whatever that is)
Distance - 0.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain - 100 feet
Description -  short hike to a waterfall, this trail is considered to be heavy use, meaning, lots of people, but very kid friendly

Gem Lake

Trailhead - Lumpy Ridge: accessed via car on Devil's Gulch Road, which is only several miles north east of our chalet
Distance - 3.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain - 910 feet
Description -  a seldom used trail to a little lake that sits among odd granite rock formations, this hike might be a little difficult for the children and flat landers, the rock formations and cliffs here are reported to be the home to some various birds of prey, the first mile is very steep followed by a leisurely stroll in the woods

                                    Beaver Boardwalk

Trailhead - near Hidden Valley Creek, which is several miles northwest on Highway 34 or Trail Ridge Road from our chalet
Distance - 0.25 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain - 0
Description -a short interpretive hike on a boardwalk over wetlands and several small ponds that were created by beavers, there are a lot of ducks and flowers; no fishing allowed, there is a small chance of seeing some beavers

Sprague Nature Trail

Trailhead -Sprague Lake: accessed via shuttle bus from the Moraine Park Visitor Center, which is only several miles from our chalet
Distance - 0.5
Elevation Gain - 0
Description -  mountain lake at elevation 8,200 feet with an interpretative nature trail that circles the lake, this trail is considered to be heavy use, meaning, lots of people, but very kid friendly

July 10, 2012

Longs Peak Prep - Gear List

From the Top of Longs Peak
Here is a list of recommended gear to include on your person for the hike.  If there is anything that I missed let me know.

Gear List:

Longs Peak Narrows from Near

  • lots of water - 4 liters to be safe, no flowing water on the trail, its good to have a little extra, we might be able to stash water on the trail for the way down
  • food - at least 4,000 calories worth, its good to have a little extra; food that stores well: energy bars, candy, sandwhich, etc.

Clothing/Body Protection

  • jacket/extra clothing - wear layers as the temp changes drastically and the wind most likely will be chilling (recommend three layers: jacket long sleeve shirt, t-shirt)
  • extra pair of socks (or two) the snow melt will mean that the trail could be muddy (having dry socks is a huge bonus)
  • gloves
  • hat 
  • sunglasses
  • rain gear
Longs Peak Narrows from Far


  • backpack to carry extra water, food, clothing, accessories
  • sunscreen
  • headlamp or flashlight, i have three head lamps, I can loan out two
  • TP - very important, i will have enough for everybody
  • basic first aid kit
  • crampons are recommended to have in your pack, I will call Ranger Station prior to hiking to see if this is necessary
  • map (i will have)
  • whistle
  • phone (there is service at the top)
  • camera
  • hiking sticks (takes weight off your knees and ankles)
  • aspirin
  • can of Mountain Dew

July 9, 2012

Longs Peak Preparation

From our cabin to Longs Peak Trail-head is a 30 minute drive.  The lot fills up very early.  What day should we hike?  I like Tuesday.  The hike up is 7.5 miles.  We need to be back below the tree line before afternoon storms meaning we should be at the peak by noon or turn back.  If we wake at 2:00 AM and get to the trail-head by 3:00 AM (after a big breakfast) we will be good.  That gives us nine hours, but I am sure that we can make it to the peak within 7 hours at the least.  I recently hiked a longer, steeper hike with several people who were not optimally conditioned and we peaked in five hours.  The big difference being oxygen, but if we bag a few hours on an acclimatizing hike between 12,000 and 13,000 feet plus several days at our cabin we will be better for it.  For information about Longs Peak call (970-586-1206).  Weather informationWeb cam of current conditions.  At the time I am writing this (13:45), I am seeing some pretty rough looking clouds up there.

If you have anything to add please comment or send an email.  I can incorporate into this post.  If you need to find this blog, search: "review hikes books" in Google and this blog will be first on the list. 

Also see:

Beware: Altitude Sickness
Prep: Gear List