The staycation continues to be in effect, so today I went for a long overdue hike at Rocky Mountain National Park. The last time that I was at RMNP was in April when I snowshoed there with my best friend Ashley and I have been ready to experience RMNP summer style for awhile now. After researching hikes last night, I randomly decided on the Flattop Mountain/Hallett Peak journey and found myself awake at 4:45 a.m. this morning. You might be asking yourself why I optionally woke up that early. In fact I also asked myself the same question at 4:46 a.m., but I wanted to bypass Denver rush hour and beat the Midwestern tourists to the trails. Following a coffee run in Boulder (because I left Denver before our Starbucks even opened), I made it to Estes Park and the Bear Lake trailhead by 7 a.m. I was one of less than ten cars in the parking lot at this time and I had Bear Lake to myself as I hiked up to the Flattop Trail, which confirmed that I had made the correct decision by arriving early. During the summertime Bear Lake is always full of tourists, which made it especially nice and peaceful to pass by the Lake in silence.
I headed up the trail at a good pace, pausing very briefly for quick water breaks and photos. I had conveniently forgotten my mosquito repellent in my apartment, so I definitely tried to make it a point to not stand still in one place for very long. At this point in the day, the trail was pretty deserted and I passed only a couple of groups up to the first couple of landmarks, the Dream Lake Overlook and the Emerald Lake Overlook.
The two lake overlooks were neat, because as a former child of Colorado I have of course hiked the Bear Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake trails many times. This was my first time on the Flattop Mountain Trail though, so it provided a completely different perspective. After the Emerald Lake Overlook the trail started to climb above the treeline, and there were amazing panoramic views of the entire park.
Once the trail got above the treeline, the weather started to get colder and I had to add another layer. The trail also got a little more demanding, but I kept up my pace up the mountain. There was a hitchrack at 3.9 miles into the trail, which provided a good place for a brief break and a picture with Hallett Peak. This photo is courtesy of a nice couple from Estes Park who actually offered to take my picture without me even asking! I love when I don’t have to be creepy.
The final half mile up to Flattop Mountain was up a steep snowfield, which was actually really hard to navigate because it was slushy and icy. Finally I made it to the Flattop Mountain summit though!
From Flattop Mountain I then took a “trail” up to Hallett Peak. The trail was loosely marked by cairns across a boulder field that climbed straight up the side of Hallett Peak. Let’s just say that the trail was supposedly 0.6 miles each way, and it took me about 30 minutes to get to the top of the peak. And I passed two groups on the way up, so I definitely wasn’t going slowly. Anyway, as I was climbing up the peak, I was thinking to myself that the view better be killer for all that extra work! Of course the view was incredible.
At the top of Hallett Peak a nice young man from Missourah actually asked me to take a picture of him and he then offered to take my picture on the peak. Again, karma was on my side today. I didn’t have to stalk innocent hikers and make them take my picture! The way down from Hallett Peak was even harder than the ascent because of all the boulders, but I finally made it down. During the whole descent I had a great time taking in the views and enjoying the mountains, because on the way up I had been pretty focused on making good time and trying to beat the inevitable throng of tourists. I’m not against Colorado tourism, but on my hike down I saw a couple hiking in flip flops. Not Chacos, flip flops. I’m not sure what they planned to do on the snow filled hike up to the summit. And I can only hope that they were not intending to hike to Hallett Peak. These are the type of people I was trying to avoid.
I had thought about trying to hike to Dream Lake once I got back down to the trailhead, but the area was packed when I got there and I didn’t even want to try and attempt it. Overall though, it was an awesome way to spend the day! I think I might be turning into a crazy Colorado mountain person. I mean I optionally did a strenuous ten mile hike and woke up at 4:45 a.m. That can’t be normal! Yesterday I also went on a two hour bike ride with my old roommate followed by a six mile trail run with the Denver Trail Runners group. Okay, I give, I am a Colorado crazy.