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:


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!

Taylor Peak – 13,435 & Star Peak – 13,521

RT Length: 13.34 Miles

Elevation Gain: 4167’

With the recent snow I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on today’s hike.  I drove down road 742 in the dark until it dead-ended.  The road was icy in the morning, and not too bad on the way out. 

I parked at the trailhead, the only vehicle in the lot (both when I arrived and when I left).

It was 14 degrees outside, so I put on my full winter gear and was on the trail at 6am.  The trail starts at the southwest corner of the roundabout, and immediately crosses a stream. 

In the morning there was more ice than this photo shows, and the stream was at least a foot deep in areas.  There was no way I was starting this hike off with frozen toes, so crossing the stream here wasn’t an option.  I spent about 15 minutes searching for a better way to cross (in the dark).  I was able to find a good crossing about 15 yards upstream, rock hopped across without any difficulty, and picked up Mt Tilton Trail #582.

Even with the recent snow the trail was well packed, but not by humans.  It was packed down by hoofprints.  Some very large hoofprints.  There was also fresh moose scat along the trail and a lot of moose tracks, so I kept on the lookout (but never ended up seeing a moose).

There was one more stream crossing.  This one was almost completely frozen over.  I didn’t really want to cross it, not being sure of how thick the ice was, but I noticed a set of moose tracks on top of the ice and figured if a moose could cross the stream, so could I.  I placed my feet on top of the moose tracks and made my way across.

The trail remained easy to follow, no traction needed.  I passed the remains of a log cabin

And after hiking for 2.15 miles I came to a second set of log cabin/mining remains and a trail junction.  I turned right and followed Taylor Divide Trail #440

I followed this trail briefly, about one tenth of a mile, until the trail started to head back down, and instead turned left and headed northwest up to treeline.  It was about half a mile to treeline from leaving the trail.

Once at treeline I had a great view of Taylor Peak and how I wanted to summit.  Here’s an overview of my route

And step by step.  I stayed to the right of the willows to gain the basin

Once in the basin I headed north to gain the ridge

The rocks here were loose, and there was just enough snow to make it slow going, as I had to watch every step.  I was worried I’d roll an ankle or plunge into a hole underneath the snow.

Once on the ridge I followed it north to the summit.  There were two false summits before reaching the actual summit

The ridge to the second false summit had some snow to navigate, and what became class 3 climbing due to snow on the route.  Sticking to the ridge worked

Here’s the actual summit of Taylor Peak

I summited Taylor Peak at 9:40am

Taylor Peak: 

It was a bluebird day, so I decided to head over to Star Peak as well.  This ended up taking a lot more time than I’d anticipated.  There was just enough snow to make me question every step.  The snow as sugary, the rocks rolled, and as it started warming up as the day went on the snow became slippery. 

Here’s a look at Star Peak from Taylor Peak

The ridge doesn’t look like it ‘goes’ all the way from Taylor to Star, especially towards the end, so from the summit of Taylor Peak I turned and retraced my steps back to the basin. 

Once in the basin I stayed high and followed the mountainside west

I believe the traditional way to gain the ridge here is to use the gully, but I didn’t like the current conditions, so instead I took a slight ramp to the right of the gully.  The rock here was rubble, loose, and not much fun to traverse.  However, once I’d gained the ridge and looked down the gully I knew I’d made the correct route choice in todays’ conditions.  Here’s my overall route to Star Peak

I took the solid line up, the dotted line down (I’d recommend using the dotted line, as the higher you go here the more loose the rock is)

Once on the ridge I followed it south to the summit.  This is probably class 2 in summer, but in these conditions it felt like class 3.  The ridge goes, but it’s very narrow and the rocks are loose.  The trek here was very slow going as I’d step on snow, only to break off a microwave sized rock or plunge several feet into a hole.  I used my trekking pole to gauge every step

The summit was topped with snow

I summited Star Peak at 1:50pm. 

Star Peak: 

It was a perfect, bluebird day, yet it had taken me quite a while to reach this summit.  I sat for a bit to enjoy the view.

Here’s a look at the route from Taylor Peak to the ridge of Star

I headed back down the ridge

And down into the basin. 

Once in the basin I aimed for the drainage

Here’s looking back on my route down from the ridge (dotted line) and the traverse from Taylor (solid line)

Once in the drainage I picked up a game trail that led me back to where I’d emerged from treeline.

From here I followed the prints I’d made in the snow this morning south, back to the Taylor Divide Trail

And then back down the basin, over the frozen creek with the moose tracks

Following the well defined trail and crossing the stream that led to the parking area.

I made it back to my truck at 5pm, making this a 13.34 mile hike with 4167’ of elevation gain in 11 hours.