Taylor Peak – 13,157, Powell Peak – 13,197, Otis Peak – 12,481, Hallett Peak – 12,723 & Flattop Mountain – 12,330

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 .

Elk Bugling:

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

Taylor Peak:

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

Powell Peak:

https://youtu.be/0oxEIaN_wYg

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

Otis Peak:

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

Hallett Peak:

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!

McHenrys Peak – 13,330

RT Length:  17.46 miles

Elevation Gain:  4442’

I started from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3:30am.  There were already several parties in the parking lot (probably 10 vehicles), but didn’t see another person on my route all day.   This is also a bus stop for access to Glacier Gorge (and lots of other hikes).  All this means is that it was overly crowded the last 2 miles of the hike on my way down.  Passing people became impossible, and more of a stroll as I hiked out with hundreds of other hikers. 

I followed the class 1 trail, staying on the Mills Lake trail.  There were wonderful signs that made getting lost difficult. 

I passed Alberta Falls at 1.15 miles, and continued following the trail to Mills Lake

After hiking for 3.35 miles I passed Mills Lake, and at 3.85 miles I passed Jewel Lake.  Side note:  there’s great fishing here.  Lots of hungry trout, eager to feast on any worm you drop in.  The larger trout are in the stream above Jewel Lake, and in Mills Lake.

I continued following the class 1 trail all the way to Black Lake (6 miles in).  This part of the trail had a lot of wood foot bridges, and rock slabs to cross.  All class 1, but the rock slabs were tricky to navigate in the dark.

I made it to Black Lake, and continued on the class 1 trail, up a waterfall, and across more rock slabs.

Here the trail kind of fizzled out, but I continued following cairns as I crossed a small creek, and headed southwest towards McHenrys Peak. There are a ton of cairns in this area (circled in red). 

Here’s the overall route to Frozen Lake (not pictured) and up Stone Man Pass.  There are plenty of cairns to guide you, but for the rest of the hike be careful:  there are a lot of granite slabs that are quite steep to navigate (all class 2), and slippery where wet.

Here are some close up pictures to Frozen Lake

I easily rock hopped and crossed the lake on its north side, and continued heading west towards Stone Man Pass

There are still tons of cairns in this area, but choose your route based on the best conditions.  The rocks are very slippery where they are wet.  I was aiming for the gully below Stone Man Pass.

I didn’t think the gully was that bad.  I stayed right on my way up, but took the other side down.  I’d recommend climbing up the left side of the gully, as it was more stable, but both were fine.  Here are some pictures of the gully

Once at the top of the gully, I turned right and headed northwest towards McHenrys Peak.  Everything you can see here is class 2, and there are cairns to guide your way.

I rounded the mountain, and was now on the west side of the peak.  Here is got a bit trickier.  There were still cairns to follow.  I headed up a rock slab, and rock filled gully.  This was easy class 3

Here’s the overall route of the rest of the climb.  I felt this was difficult class 3, with some exposure. 

There was a chimney to head up, and then a short but intense scramble to the summit

I summited McHenrys Peak at 9:50am

McHenrys Peak:

The summit looked like it could have several actual summits, so despite the large cairn and summit register, I made sure to walk all around the summit to make sure I’d actually summited.

Now to head back down. The trickiest part was descending the initial section, and finding my way back around the side of the mountain.  Once I was there, it was easy to find my way to Stone Man Pass, and then back down to Frozen Lake.

And then I followed the cairns northeast, back towards the trail that would lead me to Black Lake

Then followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead. 

I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 17.46 mile hike with 4442’ of elevation gain, as per CalTopo.  Strava told me it was a 15.02 mile hike with 6573’ of elevation gain.  I tend to go with CalTopo when I write, for consistency purposes, especially since Strava tends to grossly exaggerate elevation gain. 

Also, there were a few elk along the trail who didn’t seem bothered by my presence… they wouldn’t even look up from whatever they were eating to acknowledge me.

On to the next trailhead!

Pagoda Mountain – 13,479

RT Length:  17.74 miles

Elevation Gain:  4544’

I started from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3:30am.  There were already several parties in the parking lot (probably 10 vehicles), but didn’t see another person on my route all day.   This is also a bus stop for access to Glacier Gulch (and lots of other hikes).  All this means is that it was overly crowded the last 2 miles of the hike on my way down.  Passing people became impossible, and more of a stroll as I hiked out with hundreds of other hikers. 

I followed the class 1 trail, staying on the Mills Lake trail.  There were wonderful signs that made getting lost difficult. 

I passed Alberta Falls at 1.15 miles, and continued following the trail to Mills Lake

After hiking for 3.35 miles I passed Mills Lake, and at 3.85 miles I passed Jewel Lake.  Side note:  there’s great fishing here.  Lots of hungry trout, eager to feast on any worm you drop in.  The larger trout are in the stream above Jewel Lake, and in Mills Lake.

I continued following the class 1 trail all the way to Black Lake (6 miles in).  This part of the trail had a lot of wood foot bridges, and rock slabs to cross.  All class 1, but the rock slabs were tricky to navigate in the dark.

I made it to Black Lake, and continued on the class 1 trail, up a waterfall, and across more rock slabs.

This is where my report may differ from others.  I took a different route in than I did out at this point, and liked my route out better.  It was easier to follow, and there were less willows/shrubs involved.  Here’s the overall picture of what I did.  There is a cairn circled in red, indicating the route to McHenry’s Peak.  Don’t take that route, but leave the trail and head behind the bush.  You will then easily see cairns that will guide you through the upper basin.

Once again, there is no established trail to Green Lake, but there are some tramped game trails (all covered in grass, not much dirt to be seen) and lots of cairns.  This is also choose your own adventure.  You’re aiming south, towards the mountains (circled in red).  There are several small streams to cross in this area, all easily hop-able.

 

I navigated a bit to the right of the waterfall to get to Green Lake (cairns here too)

Once at Green Lake, I turned left and headed southeast.  Here’s my overall route on scree, navigating around large boulders and rock slabs to keep this all class 2.

Here are some close-up pictures of my route up the gully, to the saddle

Once at the saddle, I turned right and headed up the ridge.  I went directly up the ridge on the way up, which was class 3.  I kept it class 2 on the way down by staying more to the left of the ridge. 

Here are some pictures of the ridge.

I summited Pagoda Mountain at 9am. There was a plastic tube at the summit as a register, lacking a lid, but with a ziplock bag inside.  I didn’t bother opening it.

Pagoda Mountain:

I had a great view of the Longs Peak keyhole route

Now to re-trace my steps back to the saddle, before the storm hit

And back down the scree to Green Lake

Once back at Green Lake, I turned right and followed the cairns north out of the basin

This time I went behind the rocks and picked up the old trail, circled in red

Then followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead.  It started raining just as soon as I made it to treeline, accompanied by a flash of lightning, a loud boom, and a wide rumbling all around me.

I made it back to my truck at 1:30pm, making this a 17.74 mile hike with 4544’ of elevation gain in 10 hours. 

On to the next trailhead!

Chiefs Head Peak – 13,579

RT Length:  18.17 miles

Elevation Gain:  5476’

I parked at the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead at Rocky Mountain National Park, and was on the trail at 4:30am.

The Sandbeach Lake Trail was a class 1 trail I took all the way to Sandbeach Lake.  There were 2 creek crossings, but they had footbridges across.

It was 5 miles to Sandbeach Lake. Once at the lake, the fastest way to skirt the lake and find a trail is to go right here

But I wanted to see the lake, so I did, and then followed the lake past a small stream, and caught up with the trail there.  

After crossing the creek, I followed the trail northeast to treeline.  When the trail ended, there were plenty of cairns to guide the way (circled in red).

Once at treeline, I kept aiming for Mt Orton (unranked). There were cairns to mark the way until I was in front of Mt Orton

I then skirted Mt Orton to the left, and went through a very small saddle

I could now see an easy path to Chief Head’s ridge.  Here’s the route I took

And some close-up pictures

Once on the ridge, I followed it .3 miles to the summit, on rocky terrain.  I was able to keep it all class 2 by staying to the left.

There wasn’t a summit register, or a cairn, or a marker, so I just walked all over the rocky summit.

I summited Chiefs Head Peak at 11am

Chiefs Head Peak:

From the summit I had an amazing view of Pagoda, Longs, and Meeker

This was an out and back hike, so I turned and retraced my steps back down the mountain, around Mt Orton, and to Sandbeach Lake

The cairns picked up again, and I could now see Sandbeach Lake, so route finding was easy until I hit the trail.

Back at the lake, I picked up the Sandbeach Lake Trail, and took this class 1 trail all the way back to the trailhead.

I made it back to my truck at 3:15pm, making this an 18.17 mile hike with 5476’ of elevation gain in 10 hours 45 minutes.

On to the next trailhead!

Mt Chiquita – 13,054, Ypsilon Mountain – 13,513, Mt Chapin – 12,454

RT Length:  10.2 miles

Elevation Gain:  3555’

I parked my truck at the Chapin Pass trailhead and was on the trail at 4am. 

The trail starts out heading directly up to the pass. 

After hiking for .25 miles I came to an obvious junction and turned right, heading towards Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon summits

The trail was very easy to follow.  I followed it east and rounded the north side of Mt Chapin (saving it for later).

The trail changed from Class 1 to Class 2 as I made my way up to the top of Chiquita, heading northeast. 

I made it to the summit just as the sun was starting to rise

 I summited Mt Chiquita at 6am

Mt Chiquita:

From the summit of Mt Chiquita I could see the summit of Ypsilon Mountain to the north. 

It was an easy ridge walk to get there, with a small false summit along the way. I just followed the ridge down 270’, and then up 722’ to the summit of Ypsilon.

I summited Ypsilon Mountain at 7am

Mt Ypsilon:

This was going to be an out and back for me, so I retraced my steps back to Chiquita, losing 722’ of elevation, and then gaining 270’

Back at the summit of Mt Chiquita I continued following the ridge southwest, back to the trail.  There is a trail to the summit of Mt Chapin from there.

Here are some close up pictures of the class 1 trail

I summited Mt Chapin at 8:30am

Mt Chapin:

I turned and retraced my seps back to the trail below

Once back at the junction with the main trail, I turned left and followed it west to Chapin Pass

I even saw a few bull elk lounging along the way

Back at Chapin Pass, I turned left, and followed it back to the parking area, which was now overflowing with dozens more vehicles than could fit in the area.  If you want to do this hike, get there early.

I made it back to my truck at 9:15am, making this a 10.2 mile hike with 3555’ of elevation gain in 5 hours, 15 minutes.

On to the next trailhead!