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12er: Mt Ida in RMNP

After discovering my love for sub-14ers on the Friday of Labor Day weekend I had the chance to hike a 12er on Labor Day itself. Holiday traffic on I-70 back towards Denver is no fun, so Graham and I decided to go for a hike on Labor Day and not head back to Denver until late in the evening. Anyway, for our hike we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park with his family through the western Grand Lake entrance. Although I have spent a lot of time on the eastern side of RMNP and the Wild Basin area I had never been to the Grand Lake side of the park, and I was immediately impressed with the gorgeous views of the Never Summer range.

IMG_7245Never Summers from the trail to Mt. Ida.

Like the difference between the crowds on a 14er versus a sub-14er the west side of RMNP is far less crowded than the other parts of the park. I had always thought Wild Basin was the best kept RMNP secret but as it turns out that accolade totally belongs to the west side! 

We chose the Mt. Ida hike because Ida is one of the peaks visible from Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake, and it’s kind of fun to hike peaks that you look at regularly. It was described in the guidebooks as a 9.6 mile roundtrip hike, and I was excited for another fun sub-14er. We began our hike a little late in the morning at around 10 a.m., and after climbing through the trees the trail quickly meandered onto exposed tundra.

IMG_7248The trail winding through the tundra.

Confession: I like being tough and rugged but man I always love the nicely maintained trails at National Parks. The guidebook describes this hike as half off-trail, however, compared to my normal hikes the trail was in great shape. The views were amazing, and I could not believe how few people were hiking Ida. We got passed by more mountain goats than people on the tundra! (True story.)

IMG_7250Looking down into some mountain lakes.

IMG_7270The Never Summers again.

The trail became rockier near the summit and the last mile essentially traverses a boulder field. Sub-14ers are really no easier than 14ers! I was definitely as out of breath hiking Ida as I am on 14er trails. The weather also started looking questionable, probably due to our admittedly late start on the trail. We decided to summit, snap a few pictures and eat lunch on the way down instead of hanging around above treeline.

IMG_7253Alpine lakes are my favorite ever. 
IMG_7254Looking down towards Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake.
IMG_7258Summit photo. I may have been wearing Graham’s Patagonia over my rain jacket. It was chilly!
IMG_7259Longs Peak is incredibly striking from the distance.

It started sprinkling on us as we headed down the boulder field. Luckily the weather cleared by the time we got back to treeline so we stopped and ate a picnic lunch of tuna, crackers, cheese and fruit. The rest of the hike down was a breeze.

IMG_7257West side pride.

Want to check out this hike?

I’m looking forward to exploring the west side of RMNP even more next summer. Mt. Ida is an awesome, not crowded hike that offers a legitimate summit experience ending at an impressive 12,889 feet with views of Longs Peak, the Never Summer range and the Colorado River valley towards Grand Lake. Add it to your list of must-do RMNP hikes! Check out the hike information on the ProTrail website for Mt. Ida.


On a serious note I hiked Mt. Ida over Labor Day weekend, just a few weeks before that area of the state was struck with massive flooding. Estes Park on the eastern side of RMNP was completely isolated and the major highways leading into town were destroyed. RMNP was closed for a few days and has just reopened, though there is serious damage there as well. As someone who has loved RMNP and its surrounding mountain communities this has hit very close to home. If you want to check out ways to help the communities harmed by the recent flooding check out this link for some reputable organizations that are responding to this disaster.