Backpack the CDT Loop in Rocky Mountain NP

North Inlet Trailhead - Search Nearby - Added by Matt Johnson

One of the lighter trafficked spots within RMNP, The CDT Loop offers a challenging experience and a chance to capture some of the best views within this region.

This section of the CDT begins at the North Inlet trailhead, located on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trailhead is north of the main town area of Grand Lake. Parking at the trailhead is limited, so hikers can also park along the road leading to the trailhead. The hike follows the same route as the trip towards Cascade Falls (Hike to Cascade Falls, Rocky Mountain NP). After the falls, the trail continues, and hikers should begin to see additional campsites (Gouseberry - 5.6 miles in, North Inlet Junction - 7.1 miles in, July - 8.1 miles in) as the elevation begins to rise. After the July campground, the trail starts to see more aggressive switchbacks on the climb up to the peak of Flattop Mountain. About one mile from this point, the mountain opens up entirely, and the trail can become difficult to follow. Make sure to be aware of trail markings so your group doesn't get lost. Once at the peak, the trail forks left (west) following the Tonahutu Creek Trail. From this point, the remainder of the hike will be downhill. After about three miles from the peak, the trail finds tree coverage again, right near the Timberline campground (14.4 miles in). The trail continues in the tree coverage for some time, passing by Granite Falls (16.9 miles) along the way. At the 19 mile mark, the trail enters the Big Meadows section, offering sweeping views of the large prairie side. After this, it's just a couple more miles back to the trailhead, finishing off the hike. 

This trail is best suited to be done from July to October, weather permitting. Please be mindful of what time you'll be summiting Flattop Mountain, as Colorado is notorious for afternoon rain or thunderstorms. For roughly five miles, there is no coverage at the peak. Also consider your water sources during this section of the hike. The last reliable spot we found was the July campsite, and the first after the ascent was near the Timberline campsite. 


24.3 Miles RT

Elevation Gain

4000 ft Gain




Camping, Backpacking, Hiking


Nearby Lodging

Estes Park KOA

Estes Park, Colorado

From $149/night

Boulder A-Lodge Cabin

Boulder, Colorado

From $39/night

Boulder A-Lodge Hostel

Boulder, Colorado

From $40/night

Boulder A-Lodge Camping

Boulder, Colorado

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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