Hiking the Ute Trail in RMNP

August 30, 2008 at 8:36 pm

My parents and little brother were in town for the first few days of the long weekend, so we head another excuse to spend time hiking in the mountains! This time, we drove up high in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and ended up hiking several miles down the Ute Trail.

Our hike on the Ute Trail on a Topo map
Our hike on the Ute Trail elevation profile

There’s nice pictures from the day in the gallery.

The trail does not gain or loose too much altitude. But it starts high and stays high. We parked our car at around 11,450ft, and started walking up the gradual slope from there. It’s amazing what a difference a few thousand feet can make in your hiking, even for Mark and I who are getting a little more used to these altitudes. It felt like we had all suddenly gained about 50 lbs to carry up this hill.

Dad and Kevin hiking at 11,500ft

The views along the trail were fantastic, and, miracle of miracles, the trail was quiet. We had found one of the most beautiful places in the park, and saw only a handful of other people near the trailhead. Once we were around the corner and on the true ridge, we were alone with the wind, the mountains, the marmots and the sky.

Long's Peak panorama

Mom, Dad and Kevin turned around at the high point of the trail, after enjoying 360-degree views of the highest peaks in the national park and of Estes Park. It felt like we were standing eye-to-eye with Long’s Peak, and we could see out over the Neversummer range to the western slope. Mark and I picked up the pace and cruised down the last half mile to Timberline Pass, where we took a bunch of pictures and then turned around.

Rocky Mountains

Looking west towards the Never Summer Mountains

The Ute trail actually goes through a large part of the national park, and could be hiked all the way from Trail Ridge road down to Beaver Meadows, over six miles further. The sign at the trailhead told us that the trail we were walking on and trailridge road were built on the trails used by the Ute Indians, hundreds of years ago, as they migrated from winter to summer camps. I think the idea of a migratory life, being able to move from place to place in the Rockies as the weather changed and the plants and animals move, sounds wonderful. Though, I don’t know how well I’d do carrying a baby and all of my belongings over this 11,500ft ridge.

By the end of the day, we were all pretty tired, even without participating in a mass migration. Kevin drove us back down the mountain, and we had a great dinner at Ed’s. Another great hike everybody!