Rocky Mountain National Park

Jan 29th, 2011, 06:35 PM
  #1  
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Rocky Mountain National Park

Considering a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park the first weekend of August. I don't normally camp, but taking two college boys that work for me and we think camping would be fine and they have most everything we need. Probably tent camp, but might take a popup tent trailor. We will drive from Oklahoma, so not sure we want to pull a camper or not. We will be in a Jeep Wrangler. I can reserve beginning next week for the period that we plan to be there. Is there a Best Campground? It looks like my choices are Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park Campground. Is there a Best site # at any of the particular campgrounds? Any place to pay to take a shower outside the park?

This will be my 29th national park and I took one of the guys with me last year to Capitol Reef and the other hasn't been to any. I normally do fairly hard hikes and everything from raft the GC to rappel off 200ft. waterfalls. They are super fit athletes and we all would like to attempt Long's Peak, but then again we might just want to do some easier hikes. The altitude has me more worried than anything, so not totally for sure we want to attempt it. I have read a lot on it and realize I would need to start at 3ish in the morning and understand all the dangers(but not totally the altitude as I have no real experience with this type of hike). We will be there Fri, Sat, and Sun for a full 3 days. If we do attempt it, it will be on Sunday, so we'll be the best acclimated as possibly can be. We like waterfalls. I assume they will be running at that time of year and if so what are the best trails/falls for that? What should we expect weatherwise?

Any other thoughts would be appreciated.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 08:25 AM
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It's up to you, but as a newcomer to the area, I am amazed by how many deaths there seem to be on Longs Peak. Just in today's paper there was a story about a woman that had to be rescued from the peak.
bigtyke is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 08:46 AM
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There are several routes up Long's Peak. Most of the deaths occur on the technical routes. The tourist route does have a couple of difficult places, but hundreds climb it every year without any problems. You do need to be fit and, of course, pay attention to what you're doing. The most dangerous thing is the possibility of an afternoon thunder storm.

Sorry I can't help with camp sites.
historytraveler is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 09:33 AM
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To get info on camping sites you might want to check on a couple of RV sites that I use. Both have people who can help you out whether you tent camp or go the pop-up route. You can also do searches there.

www.irv2.com and www.rv.net

RMNP is on our to-go-to list so I can't help you out but maybe you can get some go info on the above sites.
Floridafran is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 10:44 AM
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Longs Peak is not a simple day hike; it is one step removed from a technical climb, and if you aren't acclimated to altitude, it's not a great idea. However, if you want to do it, you will need to be at the trailhead and walking by 3 to 4 a.m. You will want to on your way down by noon at the latest. (The deaths are actually a mixed bag; falls, strokes, and hikers getting hit by lightning get as many as technical climbing accidents.)
Moraine park has amenities (water, bathrooms), and I think the very large, smooth rocks are fun to walk through/over/around. (I'm also thinking that the Fall River entrance has showers now, but not sure.)
sylvia3 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2011, 02:26 PM
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NPS site says no showers.
I have hiked routes similar to this, as far as danger, but nothing with this much elevation gain starting and ending at this altitude, so yes the altitude is my main concern. This is why I mentioned in my post that I know the dangers and I understand the need to be at the trailhead by 3:00AM. If I see any thunderstorm development the hike will end immediately. Thanks for the info.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 08:04 AM
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I was thinking about the general store set up next to the official Fall River National Park entrance station (which is pretty new and has a nice cafe, souvenir shop, etc., itself). They advertise everything from cold beer to horseback rides, but can't think of the name!
sylvia3 is online now  
Jan 31st, 2011, 08:13 AM
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p.s. There's a part of the hike up Longs called the Trough; steep, switchbacks, rocks from people above you; also, the "Home Stretch" involves scrabbling on all fours, and a slip could be deadly. There can be hIgh winds also; someone died after the high winds pushed them over last year.
So, you might look at the trail maps and descriptions in detail before you head up; you need to be in great condition (sounds like that's no problem), but it has other (including above tree-line alpine) pitfalls for those who are not forewarned.
(And don't drop your camera on rocks just before you get to the top, as my son did; my first digital camera, and I never even got to use it!)
sylvia3 is online now  
Jan 31st, 2011, 08:15 AM
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Last summer an experienced climber with several 14000 peaks in his background made it to the top of Long's Peak. It was so windy he had to make the final distance on his hands and knees to keep from falling off. Another was not so lucky, the climber found his body on the way down.
bigtyke is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 09:17 AM
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The main danger appears to me would be watching out for others. Sometimes as many as 800 people try this in a single day. The standard Keyhole Route would be the route that I would attempt. I didn't start the post for the sake of hashing out whether or not I should hike Long's Peak. There are dangers on lots of trails, whether it is on a peak or in a slot canyon. Even experienced people get into trouble, but usually it is those with no experience that end up needing rescued, etc. I was mainly interested in the 3 "in park" campgrounds and if anyone had any insight as to those. Again, as from my first post, "I have read a lot on it". I have studied this in great detail already!!! was simply making a point about the altitude. I think this hike would be similar to Angels Landing, Rim to Rim of Grand Canyon, Halfdome, Etc. However, it is at a higher altitude that all of those, that was my only point. Thanks for your concern and additional info.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 09:58 AM
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It has been several years, but I like the Moraine Park campground. You can click on my profile if you would like to see a pic of my campsite - notice the deer on the left. I believe Glacier Basin has been hit hard by the beetle kill so you might want to be wary or do more research before booking at that campground. Thanks for the reminder to make a summer reservation.
wtm003 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 11:30 AM
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Should be notice the deer on the right. Aaargh!
wtm003 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 04:05 PM
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I've climbed Longs about 10 times from 5 different routes and have been over 20,000' on 3 occasions in the Himalaya.

Altitude sickness is totally unpredictable. I've seen two cases of fatal HAPE, both in people younger and fitter than me. It's not pretty. You can't train for altitude and it doesn't matter how fit you are.

Your plan to climb on your third day is good. You will *likely* have symptoms of AMS, such as headache, dizziness, shortness of breath. Be aware of this and prepare to turn around immediately if they become severe or progress into nausea, vomiting, slurred speech. Unfortunately turning around close to the summit is a hard decision to make, and it gets harder the farther you are from home. Also "severe" is subjective.

Important: you know this already but, stay well hydrated! Tank up on water the day before your climb.

FWIW, I think the exposure on Longs Keyhole is scarier and more dangerous than Angels Landing, but this is subjective and it sounds like you know what you are doing. If you do the Rim to Rim then you are better man than I, Gunga Din.

Have fun, Longs is a fabulous and tough mountain. Use good judgment. (Speaking from experience, I know that isn't always easy!)
Nelson is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 07:41 PM
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I haven't actually seen Glacier Basin (or recent pics for that matter) but it's my understanding the park has cut down a bunch of pine trees due to beetle kill, so it may not be as pretty or shaded as before. Moraine Park has nice views, Aspenglen is much more closed in and is further from the main parts of the park. Not that it's way out there, but it's probably a 15-20 minute drive from Moraine Park. With only 3 days, I'd suspect you want to minimize the time you spend driving back and forth.

There's a laundromat in Estes Park called Dad's that has showers, in the same area as the Safeway grocery store.

Waterfalls are actually better earlier in the summer, like June when the snowmelt is really going. They'll be ok in August though.

Expect typical mountain weather, unpredictable but generally a good chance of afternoon thunderstorms so plan to be below treeline by early afternoon. The storms do tend to drive the crowds off the trails, so a late afternoon/evening hike can be pretty quiet in some of the usually crowded areas.





Jeep Wrangler hard top or soft top?? The campgrounds unfortunately don't have a lot of bear boxes, you have to share one with other campsites so most people just store their food, etc in their vehicle. Not really a good option if you have a soft top.

Way too early to get real detailed on which particular hikes you should do, you have a ton of time to figure it out and 3 days isn't much time to get in depth there. But I would highly recommend you hike in the Glacier Gorge area, especially if you get up early and can get into the upper Glacier Gorge (above Black Lake). Perhaps instead of Longs Peak you may want to consider hiking to Chasm Lake, same trail for part of the ways and Chasm is beneath Longs, so you'll get an idea of what that hike might be like if you don't think you're up for it this time around.

I can't think of any trails that have a high number of waterfalls, most have a few but not a super high concentration as they are kind of spread out.

Probably skip the Wild Basin area this time around, it's nice for backpacking but it takes 4-5 miles to get to where you start to have great views. Probably want to skip the west side too, the hikes over there tend to take awhile to get up into the mountains. But either is nice if you're willing to get up early and take a chance on having to abort if the storms kick up as expected.

Somewhere there is a website that has pics of the various sites in Moraine Park and Glacier Basin, I'll see if I can find it. Also check out rmnpforums.com, there is a ton of info there. Too much info perhaps for a first time visit, it can get somewhat overwhelming. But there is a section of that website that has a bunch of article dealing with probably most of your questions.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 4th, 2011, 12:27 PM
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I found website and even the recreation website where you make reservations has pictures of each individual site. I wanted #115(Moraine Park) and got it. Still not certain if that is a great site, but looked good in the pics. I called a ranger and he said it was a great one.

So now picking the hikes.
Friday-
Will arrive at the park around 10:00AM
Driving into the park, drive Old Fall River Road, see Alluvial Fan, Horseshoe Falls, and Chasm Falls along the way. Continue on Trail Ridge Road to west side of the park. Hope to see Moose on the west side.

Do the above or could do some type of hike?

Sat
Hike Alberta Falls/Timberline Falls/Sky Pond/Andrew Glacier(glissading)/Mills Lake
Can you slide down this Glacier in August? Waterfalls a trickle, halfway running or what?

Sun
Could get up at 3:00am and hike Long's Peak
also considering hiking Flattop or Bluebird Lake

Mon
We will drive home after breakfast


Jeep is a Hard Top, BTW. We could take a 4 wheel drive Expedition also. Jeep is fun to drive with the doors and tops off( I know rain or cold). Expedition would have a lot more room to haul our stuff. Both get terrible gas mileage, so that isn't an issue. Both of them are new vehicles.
spirobulldog is offline  
Feb 5th, 2011, 05:46 AM
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Fall River Road is one way, unpaved, mostly through trees without much of a view, compared to taking Trail Ridge up to the top (spectacular, awesome, etc.). IMO, Trail Ridge (both directions)is a far better way to go (based on 30 years of being the tour guide to out of towners!).
You are going a bit out of the way on Friday, all the way to the west side of the park, and then back to Moraine Park campground; a long drive, but certainly doable. Maybe take a couple of short hikes along the drive?
sylvia3 is online now  
Feb 5th, 2011, 07:12 AM
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Timberline Falls / Sky Pond is a great choice. Falls will be running pretty good, not full like in June but nowhere near a trickle. Wildflowers will be near peak also.

Andrews Glacier should be soft enough for safe controlled glissade in early August. From your direction you'll have to hike up first, so you can check conditions. The pond at the bottom would be a cold and wet landing if you aren't in control. There are real crevasses on Andrews, at least some years. By August they should be exposed.

That whole area is spectacular. Great view of The Sharkstooth from The Gash below Andrews.

If you hike Flattop the next day, you can continue on another 30-45 minutes to Hallett Peak, a more impressive summit. This takes you along the top of Tyndall Glacier, which is a dramatic view. (Do not descend that without an ice axe!) After Longs, Hallet is probably the most photographed mountain in the Park due to the view from Bear Lake, though you can't see the actual summit from there.

Have a great trip.
Nelson is offline  
Feb 5th, 2011, 07:25 AM
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One of our favorite hikes at Rocky Mt. NP is to park at the main shuttle parking lot and take the bus to Bear Lake. From there hike to Odessa Lake and then down to either the Fern Lake Trail Head or Cub Lake Trail Head where you can catch the bus to back to the main shuttle parking lot. Its about 14 miles and is less crowded then the Mills Lake area. We also found the Ouzel Lake hike from the Wild Basin Trailhead less crowded and you can go higher to Bluebird Lake from there. On Falls Road, we enjoyed the Chapin Peak hike which is at altitude and gets into the tundra. (Spectacular views into some of the backcountry valleys.)
KensingtonGirl is offline  
Feb 5th, 2011, 02:46 PM
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I'd say don't bother taking the doors and top off the Jeep, would not be practical for this trip.

I find it somewhat unlikely you'll be up for summitting Longs with less than 48 hours of acclimation. Not saying you couldn't but it would probably be a big challenge. With this being your first trip and so many other potential hikes, I think your better off doing something else instead of possibly wasting a whole day on Longs and not even getting to the summit.

Since you mentioned Flattop, why not summit Flattop on Sunday and combine that with the aforementioned hike to Andrews Glacier, etc? It's about 1.5 miles from Flattop to Andrews Glacier, and from there everything you want to see on that hike is downhill. You'd have to check conditions first of course to make sure it's safe on the glacier but combining these 2 hikes into one loop would give you a whole extra day to do something else.

Your call on driving Old Fall River Road - like I said previously, you may want to skip the west side entirely as you don't have a lot of time. But it would be a good first day trip and give you some time to acclimate. Moose are a crap shoot and there are a few on the east side now, I wouldn't plan on seeing any though. And maybe after the long drive to get to the park, it's best to get out of the Jeep and do some hiking instead of more driving? You're going to run into more and more traffic as you get later in the morning and early afternoon. I'd try to do that drive in the morning for that reason, plus the threat of storms in the afternoon. With so much of the drive being above treeline, you really want to give yourself the best chance to have decent weather. No fun driving Trail Ridge Road in rain/sleet and clouds, not being able to get out and do the Rock Cut hike or really enjoy the views.

Best advice I can give you is to make tentative plans and have backups in case of weather. Be willing to shift the hikes/days around based on conditions, prioritize which things are most important and if Saturday looks great, get the most important hike done on that day because you don't know what the weather will bring on Sunday.

I like the Odessa Lake hike that was described, although it's all downhill from Odessa and pretty steep after Fern and can be pretty hard on the knees. And most of the views are behind you if you start at Bear and end at the Fern or Cub Lake TH. That was the first hike I did in the park and it was painful for the last few miles, I didn't want to do much the next day either. So take that into account and maybe do it in reverse if you have any concerns about your knees being sore for the next day or two.
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