Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park: Estes Cone, Emerald Mountain

Estes Cone
Kristi and I have been talking about getting out and doing some camping this summer and our opportunity finally arrived.  I was able to get the last spot at Glacier Basin Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We just bought a new tent last week since our old tent ripped on our last adventure to the park about a year and a half ago.  Cole and Jenny were able to join us, so we had a small crew heading up for two days hiking and one night of camping.
The tough decision for RMNP is deciding where to hike.  There are so many great places, and the hard part is getting away from the hordes of people.  I really wanted to do a summit hike so I could get a nice view of Longs Peak in.  A few years ago I did the Twin Sisters Peak hike which I highly recommend, so I wanted a new peak.  The answer was easy and it was literally across the road; Estes Cone.
Estes Cone
The hike of Estes Cone starts from the Longs Peak TH.  This is located along HWY 7 to the south of Estes Park.  The parking lot will remain full for the remainder of the summer since this is also the TH for Longs Peak, so expect a lot of people.  The good news is that most of the people will be making their way towards Longs or Chasm Lake, leaving the trail to Estes Cone relatively free of traffic.
Cap Rock
From the TH, the hike is about 3.2 miles to the summit.  The first half mile runs along the Longs Peak Trail, then there will be a split that is well marked heading to the north; this is the Estes Cone Trail.  After this split it’s roughly another mile to the Eugenia Mine which is located along the Inn Brook Creek.  There is little left of what was apparently “produced more dreams that gold” as the sign states.  It is a nice area for a breather, but the mosquitos were pretty heavy so we pushed on.
The trail kind of tricks you here, instead of going uphill the trail heads down.  There is a nice meadow after the short descent that gives a open shot of the mountain.  Once meeting up with another trail junction the gain is steady to the top.  Another junction .7miles up the grade is where Estes Cone Trail and Storm Pass Trail meet.  From here it the main trail fades in the first few hundred yards and a climbers trail leads to the summit.
Nick and Cole Checking in on Longs
Follow the cairns and it’s pretty easy to stay on a decent trail to the top.  It is only .7miles from the last junction so it can go pretty quick, or not.  We took our time because this was our only hike for the day.  There is a nice short scramble through the cap rock to the summit.  Once on top the views of Meeker and Longs are amazing, even better than from the summit of Twin Sisters.  I took the opportunity to do a father’s day photo.  We hit the road to get back to camp and relax for the rest of the afternoon.
I must say one of the funniest parts of the day was driving by the line of cars waiting to pay at the park’s entrance.  Sometimes those annual passes are really nice; you get to open the gate with a swipe of the card.  At camp we were discussing options for the next day.  We came up with the idea of hiking Emerald Mountain from camp.  This was barely 500ft, but it still counts in my book.  Then after our morning hike we would head to the Bear Lake area and do a hike to one of the many lakes with all the other tourists.
Emerald Mountain
Jenny, Cole and Nick on Emerald Mountain
This is a small peak, but it we made a fun route through the woods and up the rocks.  There may have even been some prospecting along the way, but I can’t confirm that.  We took about as direct of a route as possible, once through the trees there was a good game trail leading up through the large rock outcrops.  This just took us over half hour to ascend, a good way to start the day.  This was a great place to view a lot of the glacial geomorphology of the park.  The moraine park to the north was quite impressive as were all the cirques to the west.  This made it well worth the effort.
Nymph and Dream Lakes
Longs Peak
We were looking for an easy hike to lakes or waterfalls, unfortunately so was everyone else.  This part of the park was packed full of tourists getting in an easy hike.  The beauty of this area is the backdrops of the mountains.  Hallett Peak looks like it made my list, and has an amazing view from Dream Lake.  This would be a great place for a snowshoe in the winter and maybe the traffic would be down around then.  As we descended the trail the arête to the east was quite impressive.  I was glad we were able to sneak another hike in for the day.
We all had a beer and some lunch from Oskar Blues on our mind, so we made our exit pretty quickly.  I can’t say I recommend hitting up Oskar Blues on a Sunday, the wait was pretty ridiculous.  But, when you’re with good friends it doesn’t really matter.  It was a great weekend, now it’s time to climb some real mountains.
Estes Cone GPS Track

Date: 6/14,15/2014
Estes Cone TH Elevation: 9,375ft
Estes Cone Summit : 11,010ft
Total Gained Elevation: ~2,000ft
Class: 1-2
Distance:  6.4 miles
Time: 4:00 moving, 2:00 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Kristi, Jenny, Cole

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