RT Length: 19.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 5983’
I started from the Flattop Mountain Trail inside Rocky Mountain National Park, at the Bear Lake parking area, at 4am. I’ve been to this trailhead a few times, and it fills up before 6am, so plan on getting there early to secure a spot.
There is great signage in this area, leading you to the trailhead
I followed the class 1, well-marked trail for 5 miles up to Flattop Mountain, gaining almost 3000’ of elevation in the process
As soon as I hit treeline the sun began to rise, and I saw a small herd of elk, led by one male bull. He bugled to me, and the ptarmigans began to chirp .
Ptarmigans waking up:
I continued following the class 1 trail to Flattop Mountain (which is really just a plateau).
At the top of the plateau is a sign. At this sign I turned left, following the cairns. Note: there isn’t a sign indicating there is a trail to the left, but there will be dozens of rather large cairns to follow towards Hallett Peak
While you could certainly summit Hallett Peak first, my main goal were some 13ers further ahead, so I skirted Hallett Peak to the right, staying at about 12360’, which kept me on rocky tundra.
As I headed southwest, staying on the rocky tundra, I could see both Otis Peak and Taylor Peak. It was my objective to summit Taylor Peak next, which meant I’d need to lose about 400’ of elevation to the Otis/Taylor Saddle (also where top of Andrews Glacier/Andrews Pass is located)
Here’s my route up to Taylor Peak from the Otis/Taylor Saddle. Note, my route up is solid, my route back down (after summiting Powell) is dotted. I would recommend these routes in the same order I completed them. The entire day consisted of class 2 terrain for all the peaks I summited.
Here are some close-up pictures of the terrain to the summit of Taylor Peak
I summited Taylor Peak at 8:30am
From Taylor Peak I could see Powell Peak to the southeast.
To get there, I’d need to contour southwest down the south side of Taylor, and then follow the ridge towards Powell Peak. The route is obvious, and easily kept class 2.
Here’s the route from the Taylor/Powell Saddle
And some close-up pictures of the route
I aimed for the highpoint, a large rock on the ridge
Here are some closer pictures of the route to the summit
Powell Summit rock, easily scaled from the left
To be honest, I’m not sure where the true summit lies. When I got to the large rock outcropping I saw what looked like a cairn a short distance away, further southeast, but when I went further southeast to that point, the rock looked higher. When I got home my track showed the rock was the highpoint, but there wasn’t anything indicating it was (no cairn/summit register/etc.) A point further northwest looked high too, so I made sure to walk over there, but my photos are from the rock outcropping.
I summited Powell Peak at 10:15am
I then retraced my steps back to the Taylor/Powell Saddle
But instead of re-summiting Taylor Peak, I skirted the summit to the left, staying at around 12750’
This was all class 2, but required a bit of rock hopping
As I continued to round Taylor Peak, Otis Peak came into view. The path towards the summit was obvious
I made my way down to Andrews Pass, and then up towards Otis Peak
I summited Otis Peak at 12:45pm
I could see Hallett Peak to the northwest, and descended to the Otis/Hallett saddle
And then headed northeast up to the summit of Hallett Peak
I summited Hallett Peak at 1:45pm
Now to head back to the trail. This was all class 2, and there were cairns to guide the way. Be careful not to aim for the obvious trail in the distance, as it will not lead you back to the trailhead. This is the route you should take. If you look carefully, you can see the sign you’re aiming for from earlier in the morning
At the junction I turned right, and followed the class 1 trail back to the trailhead
I made it back to my truck at 4pm, making this a 19.75 mile hike with 5983’ of elevation gain in 12 hours.
On the way out, I was stopped by another herd of elk, walking along the road.
On to the next trailhead!