Colorado, Hiking, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park, United States

Colorado Hiked: Flattop Mountain

August 7, 2022

“I got us a reservation for 5am in the park!” exclaimed Sarah once she realized I had been sitting on her couch for a little while and came out to greet me. It was another weekend sleep over at one of my favorite friends’ house, and we needed to hatch a plan. Sarah was still healing up a fractured wrist, meaning no mountain biking and instead filling her time with hiking and running to stay in shape. We dug out her map of Rocky Mountain National Park, and looked at what our options were.

I had been eying Flattop Mountain for awhile. Heading towards summits in the park in the summer is a bit of a logistical and sleep nightmare for me living in Cheyenne, as I am not a fan of 3am wake ups with 1.5-2 hour drives to follow, but summer season necessitates early starts when summits are involved. With Sarah living north of Boulder, these worries are reduced, so we settled on Flattop Mountain, with possibly adding in Hallett Peak.

A 4:30am alarm came way too soon, but it did not take long for Sarah and I to head out the door and begin the drive to Bear Lake. Our 5:45am arrival meant we not only found ample parking, but got to see the sun rise!

Waking up early is worth it sometimes

The trail wanders past Bear Lake, one of several alpine lakes found in this area. Leaving the groomed trail of Bear Lake behind, the trail immediately started climbing, with Sarah setting a brisk pace.

Alpenglow & Bear Lake
The trail starts climbing immediately after Bear Lake
Up and up! There are lots of built in stairs to go up

After about two miles the trees lessen and we approached the overlook down over Dream Lake, a very popular hike in its own right. We paused for photos, with me musing about Longs Peak and my plans to summit in a couple of weeks.

View over to Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge
Great view of Longs was had most of the climb up
Dream Lake
Photo of me at the Dream Lake overlook

I’d say half the hike up to Flattop is above treeline, which is why paying attention to the weather in the summer months is important as there is nowhere to hide from a storm. The wind picked up considerably, which was chilly.

“Mountains Don’t Care” plaque as we came to treeline
Almost to the top, and in the tundra looking at Hallet Peak
Hello, Continental Divide!

After about two and a half hours, we reached the “summit” of Flattop Mountain. Mind you, Flattop is, well, flat, so we wandered around quite a lot trying to find the highest point to stand on. Regardless of the hard to find summit, standing up on the Continental Divide was breathtaking and the views were gorgeous!

Flattop Mountain summit photo! 12, 324 feet

Sarah and I found a semi-sheltered area to break out our snacks and take a break. I had bought the night before what I deemed to be an “adult Lunchable,” and discovered to my horror it was all covered in mold! Yuck! So it was pickles instead along with a Red Bull toast. Always has to be an adventure somehow!

Selfie at our snack spot
Snackin’!
Tyndall Glacier

With the steady wind and the day ticking away, Sarah and I made the decision to forego summiting Hallet Peak on this trip.

Heading back down the trail still bundled up since the wind was chilly
This is one out and back hikes that offers great views in both directions
Meowtains
Oh hi, Longs Peak!
Another view of Dream Lake
Still plenty of alpine wildflowers
Because I’m ridiculous, I saw this out of the corner of my eye and screeched thinking it was a snake…

Just about five hours after leaving the car we were back to the Bear Lake trailhead, which was unbelievably crowded. We ditched our gear in the car, and then took our passport books back to the ranger station for stamps, and I picked up a Junior Ranger book to complete and turn back in when I returned to climb Longs Peak. We also stopped by the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

Overall, such a lovely day with one of my favorites!

Details:
Date Hiked: August 7, 2022
Trailhead: Bear Lake
Total Mileage: 9.77 miles (Garmin Vivoactive 4s/Strava)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,905 feet
Total Time Spent: 5 hours 2 minutes
Weather: Pleasant, but a chilly wind on the summit
Trail Conditions: Dry
Cell Service: Never checked!
Special Considerations: This trail is located within Rocky Mountain National Park and entry fee is required. During the busy season timed entry reservations are in place. This trail begins in the Bear Lake Corridor, which has extended timed entry requirements. This area is incredibly popular, and often parking will be full by the early morning hours. There is a shuttle available for Bear Lake Corridor, and it is recommended to park there if arriving in the later morning hours in the summer. The Flattop Mountain hike is above treeline for an extended amount of time, so weather considerations are important.

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