Help make our four days Rocky Mountain National Park epic!
June 12, 2015 8:10 AM   Subscribe

My hiking buddy and I are going to spend this Saturday through Tuesday car camping in Estes Park, Colorado. We are relatively experienced hikers and backpackers, but most of our miles have been logged in the White Mountains and neither of us has ever been to Colorado. What are some challenging and rewarding day hikes that we should do? What things do we need to consider when hiking in RMNP?

There have been some great suggestions in a few previous Ask posts, namely Hallett Peak, Chasm Lake and Lake of Glass. (Longs Peak is not something we'd like to attempt on this particular trip.) What other day hikes would you suggest of similar length and elevation gain?

We know we should start really early and be off the summits by noon. We'll be bringing extra layers, rain gear, and 2+ liters of water each, plus our usual day hike food supplies. Any thing else we should consider for RMNP that we might not be thinking of? Does hiking in early June come with any particular recommendations or precautions?

We're also planning on driving the Trail Ridge Road (do you just drive until you see a sign indicating a scenic view?) and stopping at the Colorado Cherry Company. Any other fun things we should do with our time?
posted by stripesandplaid to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I can only speak from my experience in the Montana Rockies, but here's my thoughts: while an early start is right, I think being off the peaks by noon is overly cautious. Just keep a weather eye when above treeline and be on the lookout for growing storms. Make sure those layers and rain gear would be enough if it snows. Are you bringing a water filter? Two liters per person per day is the minimum with no strenuous activity, but the air is dry, the wind is drying, and the sun can be intense at altitude. You don't want to be limiting your water intake because no-one brought a filter and you're reluctant to tank up.
posted by traveler_ at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2015

Best answer: It's raining cats and dogs along the front range right now, and it looks like the rain is going to continue into the weekend. We've had a very wet May, and this moisture is coming onto saturated ground. I don't have any specific hiking recommendations, but make sure you bring full rain gear, and pay attention to any trail descriptions that mention stream or river crossings -- they'll likely be impassible. Some state highways are closing down due to flooding, so be careful out there.

As for June-specific recommendations, realize that the snow line is probably going to be somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 feet, depending on aspect and tree cover. Don't plan on doing anything real high-altitude unless you're prepared for snow-covered alpine travel (e.g. snowshoes, crampons, or at least hiking spikes, and the ability to navigate in whiteout conditions), but since you're not planning on Long's I assume that's not in the cards for you.

There's no particular trick to Trail Ridge; it's open right now and you just drive until you want to get out and look around.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:50 AM on June 12, 2015

Best answer: You'll be at a much higher altitude at RMNP than the white mountains so I would dig up advice on avoiding altitude sickness. Depends on what altitude you're acclimated to right now. My own personal experience coming from sea level - shortness of breath, having to stop to rest every 10 feet on steeper inclines I could normally handle no problem. I felt so weak!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:06 AM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I hiked to Chasm Lake at the end of last June and we were not properly outfitted to make it all the way to the lake due to some soft snow on a narrow part of the trail. We have had a lot of late snow this year so I recommend bringing micro spikes and/or poles as well. Last year, the whole trail was clear except that tiny section but it was very narrow with a steep drop off on one side and we didn't want to risk it. Conditions this early in June this year will probably be more snowy.

In general, check in at the ranger station and ask them what trail conditions are like and which ones they recommend for you as they are very knowledgeable.

Smart to not plan to attempt Longs Peak. It is really challenging and conditions this weekend would probably be bad/deadly.

There is so much beauty in RMNP and surrounding areas but early June can be a tricky time so make sure you are flexible and not overly goal focused. Hike until the trail conditions get yucky and then turn around. You will still have a good time.

And yeah, it is uncharacteristically wet this year. Bring rain gear!
posted by rachums at 9:07 AM on June 12, 2015

Best answer: It's raining cats and dogs along the front range right now, and it looks like the rain is going to continue into the weekend. We've had a very wet May, and this moisture is coming onto saturated ground.

This. There are trails closed here because of washouts and unstable ground, and a couple areas that are closed off because of land/mudslide concerns. Check with the ranger stations as to local conditions. It's been a busy few weeks for SAR crews, so take extra care.

Bring bug spray - I've been nearly exsanguinated by bugs this year. It's as bad as the boundary waters. We're at 175% of our yearly average rainfall, and the bugs are insane.

On the plus side, the flowers have been amazing.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:13 AM on June 12, 2015

Best answer: I know you are experienced, but I want to really underline cristinacristinacristina's comment. The elevation an Estes Park begins at 8000 ft and climbs from there. You don't say how long you are giving yourself to acclimate, but please plan on taking it easy the first day or two. Altitude sickness doesn't care how in shape you are or how much experience you have, and sensitivity to it varies considerably from person to person and even from trip to trip. Make your first hike or two easy, and give your bodies plenty of time adjust, and drink plenty of water. Save your most aggressive hiking plans for later in your stay. Have fun!
posted by mosk at 10:22 AM on June 12, 2015

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