Estes Park, Colorado

Summit Longs Peak

Originally added by Jeff Richards

Summit the tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park as well as one of the best/toughest in the state. Complete a true classic Colorado and American climb. Challenge yourself both physically and mentally. Bragging rights. Elevation Gain: 5,100 feet. 14.50 miles roundtrip.

For the most part, this hike is very straightforward, so I'll essentially skip over the first 5.5 or so miles of the hike, but, in case you don't know:

Start (very early so you get a parking spot) from the trailhead right next to the parking lot (the road to it is paved - seriously this mountain is the most accessible thing ever), and walk up the very easy and very well maintained trail through the forest. This trail stays easy to follow and relatively easy to hike for about 5.5 miles. Along the way there are a few junctions, but they will all be very clearly marked with which way you want to go. When in doubt, follow the direction that goes up and toward the "Boulderfield".

When you get to the Boulderfield the fun begins. First, it is worth noting that there are campsites here, complete with decently high rock walls to guard you from the inevitable gale force winds that will whip down the side of the mountain. Anyhow, once you get past these it is time to head up to the Keyhole, an obvious and very cool looking feature in the ridge directly ahead of you. There is no trail up to the Keyhole, and instead you just have to rock hop up the sometimes very steep (but very short) section until you reach it. Once at the Keyhole, grab a rest and a drink and get ready for a good time.

It's only a mile and a half to the summit, but theres a very real chance that mile and a half will take longer than the previous 5 miles. From the Keyhole, look for a yellow and red bullseye painted on a rock just up the mountain - these will be your trail markers for this next section. Once you reach the bullseye, you are officially on the Ledges. If you are a competent hiker who has full use of both legs and both eyes, the Ledges should not be a problem. Due to frequent use, there will be a decently easy trail to follow the entire time, but, if you lose it, just follow the obvious bullseyes. This section contains minimal climbing and only one or two sections with any exposure, but it shouldn't feel like much (this coming from a guy who is TERRIFIED of heights).

After some fun scrambling along the Ledges you will reach a very large chute/gully called the Trough. I unfortunately should warn you that this section is considerably less fun - AKA this is the hardest part of the hike by far. The good thing about the Trough is, although it is a mental and physical grind, is that it requires almost no scrambling, and there is not a lot of danger of falling or exposure, so as long as it is taken slowly and deliberately, it can be done with minimal heartache. When you reach the end of the Trough, you will encounter a steeply slanted 20 foot rock wall. This is the one class 4 section of the hike. The climb is not really hard, but it should be planned out, and you should be sure of yourself, as a fall from the top of it would probably ruin your day (although most likely not your life). If you don't want to do this, or have a large camera around your neck, directly opposite the class 4 move is a series of short ledges that keep the scrambling to easy class 3, with some precarious moves. This option proved to be both easier and safer than the class 4 wall for us.

After battling with the Trough and getting passed the class 4 wall, you will reach the infamous Narrows. Now you must buckle down and prepare for narrow trails above perilous vertical drops - except not. The trail is obvious through this section and is wide enough that you would really have to try to feel the exposure. Really, its just a flat section to catch your breath after the Trough. After the Narrows there is a short scrambling section up to a small notch that does have a little more exposure, but shouldn't be a problem as the section is short and on very good rock.

Finally, after all this, you will be face to face with the Homestretch. From this view it seems as though its a vertical rock wall that you must cling to with all your might or else fall to certain death. It's not. As you start scrambling up to the Homestretch there will be a very obvious crack line visible all the way to the summit. If you follow this crack line there is very little danger involved, and in fact I was able to walk up most of the Homestretch without using my hands. It is far less steep and far less imposing than it seems from the bottom. That being said -BE CAREFUL. A fall from this section could easily be the last fall you have.

At last, you have reached the summit of Long's Peak. If you were expecting a sharp, jagged, awesome looking summit; you're out of luck. It is very flat and open and provides many good spots for photos and for a well deserved lunch.

When you are ready to head back down, simply retrace your steps down the mountain. Use as much caution going down as you did going up, as this mountain is mean and getting comfortable going down could be a big mistake.

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Tags

Rock Climbing
Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

What a hike!

Fantastic 14er! The reward is well worth the pain. We left the trailhead around 4:30 and summited at 10:15 and had the top all to ourselves. If you're going in early summer (we went June 7) check trail conditions because you might need ice axe/crampons. We passed two groups on the way up who were turned around because they didn't have the proper gear. Also was surprised how many groups were just passing through the keyhole on our way down around 1:30pm. If you go, make sure to start between 3-5am to ensure you summit before afternoon storms have a chance to roll in. The scramble is fun and has insane views the entire time. Well worth the sore legs the next day!

over 1 year ago

Worthy of the pain

If you make the mistake of believing your friend's cute story of his easy stroll up Long's peak, oh-so-doable in his tennis shoes - well then, you're in a for a painful surprise. If you prepare for the elevation change gradually, not jumping off the airplane from MN and sucking for oxygen all the way to the boulder field, well then - you're also a smarter hiker than I. But oh sweet baby Jesus (the tuxedo t-shirt wearing one), what a glorious hike with even sweeter views. Every narrative change provides a new perspective and a new reward. So painful. But so worth it.

over 2 years ago

Epic, but be prepared

Longs Peak is one truly epic 14er. As RMNP's only 14er, this peak gets a lot of attention, and as a result a lot of traffic. Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. If you're a non native to Colorado like me, be sure you know what you're getting into before you attempt to reach the summit. Getting from the trailhead to the Keyhole is a very strenuous hike, and it's from this point to the summit that the route becomes more technical with a good deal of exposure in some places. Pace yourself and bring plenty of water. When we first started planning to climb Longs Peak, I found this article pretty helpful: https://rootsrated.com/stories/10-thing-know-hiking-longs-peak

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