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This Estes Park Colorado Hike is about ten miles southwest of Estes Park and seventy miles northwest of Denver. This alpine peak requires a strenuous, long hike on a trail and across slabs and ledges with class three climbing at the top, the most famous Colorado ascent.
In this Colorado county, this Estes Park Colorado page will guide you to the highest point. Here you will find good clear directions to the trailhead and to the summit. Included also is an overview of camping suggestions and the Longs Peak hike.
As Colorado's northernmost 14er, Longs Peak stands proudly. It is unquestionably the monarch of northern Colorado and the Front Range. It is the fifteenth highest peak in Colorado, but also it is the highest peak in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park. Its pure majesty and its close proximity to Denver, and Estes Park Colorado, make it the most popular climbing mountain in the state! A true classic ascent, the Keyhole Route below is the most climbed route of any 14er route in the state.
The Keyhole Route
Often too close for comfort, it is not uncommon to have long lines of people following each other down and up the mountain, and over one hundred people on the top at a time on a busy summer weekend. Every summer, the Keyhole route will attract several thousand hikers. Routes up the mountain range from the Hornsby's Direct Route rated at 5.8 to the Class three Keyhole. Most variations and trails start from the Longs Peak Trailhead but there are several trailheads.
The Longs Peak Trailhead provides access to the East Longs Peak Trail and is at 9,400 feet elevation. The trailhead can be reached from the south or the north and is west of CO 7. Drive 9.2 miles south from the intersection of Colorado 7 and US 36 to the turnoff for the Ranger Station, for the northern approach. Drive north 10.5 miles from the junction of Colorado 72 and Colorado 7 on the Peak to Peak Highway to the Ranger Station turnoff, for the southern approach. Drive west one mile to the trailhead from the turnoff. In winter the trailhead is accessible.
Longs Peak Trailhead
Right next to the ranger station, there are twenty six camping pads at the trailhead. No reservations, they are available first come, first served! With fire pits, benches and toilet facilities, it is tent camping only. Late May through mid September, camping at Longs Peak Camp Ground is more per night when the water is turned on and less per night when the water is turned off. It's about a three hour hike from this site to the Boulder Field campsite.
Boulder Field Campsite
You will get to the Boulder Field about sunrise, about the same time as those that camped there are about to leave, if you want to camp at the trailhead site and make a longer day. Save having to lug stuff and tent to the Boulder Field campsite and hike from the lower site, if you don't mind three hours longer hike. Camp at boulderfield, if you want an easier summit day. You must check in with the Ranger Station first but camping is allowed at the Boulder Field. Get a hold of the Park Service well in advance of your trip to avoid any undesirable encounters with the Park Service, because it is first come, first served.
You can bivouac at certain areas, though the Boulder field is the only place to set up tents on the mountain, and I think the spots get taken months in advance. There are likely more, but Mills Glacier and Chasm View are the only two places I know of. If you look hard enough, these sites have some flat areas under boulders. To sleep here you need permits. Be ready for high altitude camping, because the Boulder Field is about 13,000 feet and Chasm View is about 13,500 feet in elevation!
By far the most popular route on the mountain is the Keyhole Route. From the Longs Peak Trailhead the route measures fifteen miles round trip with 5,000 feet elevation gain and is a classic class three ascent. This is usually an arduous, long uphill hike that gets even dangerous when conditions are bad and quite difficult.
On this route, many people have died! The Trough will normally require an ice ax through mid July and summer storms can make the Homestretch quite slippery. Bailout descents will likely take you down Glacier Gorge or Wild Basin and make return to the trailhead a difficult proposition and the main route spirals almost completely around the mountain. The crowds make falling rocks a very real threat even when conditions are good.
Follow the well marked trail 5.9 miles to the Boulder Field at 12,750 feet, from the trailhead. Continue southwest to 13,150 feet at the Keyhole. From here, be sure to follow the painted bull's eyes marking. Move on another 0.3 mile to the large steep gorge or gully on the side of the mountain called the Trough. To the Longs west ridge, ascend the Trough. You will need to save your strength for the last 1,000 feet!
Probably the most difficult move on the ascent, just before reaching the ridge you must pass a stone securely jammed in a crack. Cross to Longs south side and traverse across the south face along the exposed Narrows ledge, after reaching the top of the Trough. To get to the base of Homestretch, continue about two hundred fifty yards past the Narrows. Especially if they are wet, cross the slabs carefully. Its a one hundred foot walk up to the summit, once past the Homestretch. Amazing!
Northwest View from Longs Peak Summit
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