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Alpine Ridge Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park

July 2nd, 2008

0.6 miles
200 vertical feet
Total Time: 0:20

Starting elevation
11858 feet
Max elevation
12056 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Estes Park, take Highway 36 into the park. Follow Trail Ridge Road all the way up, then downhill until you see the large parking lot for the Alpine Visitor's Center on the right.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

There are signs at the bottom of the trail which warn not to start the trail if there's the threat of thunder/lightning. Well, the dark clouds to the east were definitely threatening, but I went up anyway. I figured they were far enough away and the hike was short enough that I could be up and down before it arrived. Besides, I could see there were already people at the top. Of course, this isn't the safest thing to do, so you'll have to judge your own level of risk.

At least it wasn't raining on me - yet. The trail consists mostly of log steps - lots of them, heading relentlessly uphill. The trail is not long (only 0.3 miles one way to the top), but because of the altitude (the trail starts at 11,796 feet), you'll most likely find yourself gasping for breath. At least I found it difficult. It probably didn't help that I was trying to do it as quickly as possible. My suggestion is to get here earlier (before the afternoon thunderstorms), and take it slow.

Steps lead the way up the trail

Enjoy the tundra flowers, some of which are identified with signs. There are also the fantastic views, of course. The huge visitor's center and parking lot seem out of place in such a remote, harsh environment. It sits on top of the edge of a mountain, snow on either side. In every direction are 12,000 foot peaks, pretty much as far as the eye can see.

Hmm...perhaps it's time to turn around

Looks sunny to me

I reached the top and quickly enjoyed the views (and shot a few pictures) while keeping a wary eye on the dark storm clouds in the distance. Then I turned tail and started a quick descent.

View looking back down the trail

View from the trail

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