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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Longs Peak Summit, CO

Guide 11 Triplogs  0 Topics
  4.6 of 5 
177 11 0
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13.75 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,395 feet
Elevation Gain 4,859 feet
Accumulated Gain 5,387 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 13 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 40.69
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Historic, Perennial Waterfall, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes & Possibly Connect
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
18  2015-09-02 BobP
15  2015-09-02 fricknaley
8  2015-08-21 toddak
17  2013-08-27
Peacock Pool Chasm Lake & Eugenia Mine
51  2013-07-16 rvcarter
15  2010-09-07 imike
5  2010-09-07 imike
35  2010-07-22 Kenny
Page 1,  2
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 71 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → Early
Seasons   Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  4:32am - 7:35pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Keyhole Route
by imike

Likely In-Season!
Want an exciting and rewarding day...? Head up to Estes Park to enjoy the challenge of Longs Peak. This 14er will likely give you all you desire, and perhaps more. Climbing to the top of Colorado's 15th highest peak (14,255') includes some nice mileage, a bit of class 3 scrambling...with exposure, and the prospect of very interesting weather.

The day before we hit the trail this September a hiker was flipped off the trail by 70 mile per hour winds. Lightening strikes are common. Rain and sleet and snow augment the steep sections making them well beyond perilous. This mountain injures and kills hikers each year, so plan well and consider the risks before you engage this most interesting challenge.

While the Keyhole Route provides a reasonable approach to reach the peak it is not without a variety of difficulties. It is generally considered a very good idea to begin your day early. Many hikers are on the trail before 3am, with the parking lot often filling up completely before that hour. Weekends see hundreds of aspiring peak baggers each day during the summer months. Weekdays manage to fill up the parking lot, too.

You want to be in shape for this hike. The irregular footing and the class 3 scrambling will take it out of you. Study the map and watch the trail junctures... a surprising number of hikers make the wrong turns needlessly stretching out an already long day.

The issues of high elevation hiking and inclement summer weather have to be considered and planned for; do not take this hike too lightly. That being said, trail runners have made rapid up/down traverses on this route in under 3 hours. Plan on 12 hours... if you're fit.

The route up and through the class 3 section has irritating but helpful red bulls eyes... and even a few directional signs. There are areas where the sense of exposure is substantial, both perceived and real. Read some of the triplogs and make an informed decision before undertaking this great hike.

Hike: Head up the East Longs Peak trail. Hike about 0.5 mile to a trail junction - stay left on the main trail. Continue through Goblins Forest. Switchback up a hill before crossing Alpine Brook on some log bridges. Leave the heavy forest shortly after the stream crossing and continue up to tree line near 11,000' (2.5 miles from the trailhead). Longs is now in view. Keep hiking southwest along Mills Moraine to the Chasm Lake trail junction at 11,550'.

Turn right and traverse west and northwest across the northeast slope of Mt. Lady Washington. Hike to Granite Pass to find another trail junction. The North Longs Peak Trail heads off to the right. Stay left on the East Longs Peak Trail. Next hike the ascent, easy slope, just north of the Boulder Field. Switchback up the slope to reach the north end of the Boulder Field, 12,400'. The north and east faces of Longs come into view, as well as Storm Peak (13,326'). Follow the trail south into the Boulder Field and eventually to some established tent sites in the middle of the field. There is a restroom in this area. Your next goal is to reach the Keyhole - a notch in the rugged ridge between Longs Peak and Storm Peak. The trail finally runs out near 12,800' on the south end of the Boulder Field. Follow cairns up through the rocks as the terrain becomes more steep under the Keyhole. Scramble up into the Keyhole - This is often the destination for many hikers. The terrain beyond the Keyhole is more serious and it's dangerous in poor weather conditions.

Pass through the Keyhole to the west side of the ridge. Glacier Gorge is down to the right and the next section of the route is off to the left. The remaining route to the summit is just under 1 mile, Turn left and follow painted bull's-eyes that mark the remaining route to the summit. Scramble south along ledges toward the Trough - The Trough is a large gully that ascends southeast toward the summit of Longs. About 1/3 of the way across, the route climbs up about 50' before descending 100'. This up and down adds a bit of complexity, but just keep looking for the route markers.

Enter the Trough near 13,300' and turn left to begin the 600' ascent - The route is still well marked but it can take a bit of searching to find the bull's-eyes. Generally, climb (difficult hiking really) up the center of the Trough. Some easy scrambling is required in several areas. The rock is mostly stable but there are a few sections of small, loose rock. Near the top of the Trough, climb 30' of more difficult rock to reach the top at a small, flat area. You're now on the upper portion of the ridge that runs from Longs over to Pagoda Mountain (13,497'). Longs' south side, and much more scrambling, is beyond this point.

Next, you cross The Narrows - an exposed ledge the descends slightly as it heads east across the south side of Longs. It is safest when conditions are dry, treacherous when wet or icy. Carefully climb around a couple of badly positioned rocks and continue on the Narrows - Descend slightly and continue to follow the route markers. After crossing the Narrows, scramble up onto more difficult rock to reach a point where the remaining route to the summit is visible - The final pitch is called the Homestretch. It looks worse than it is, although water or ice will make it much more difficult. A bit of concentration is still required in this area to keep the difficulty at Class 3. Again, follow the route markers. Climb up through a couple more sections of rock to reach the final portion of the Homestretch - This pitch is straightforward - follow the cracks up to the summit. Care must be taken to avoid a slide down the smooth rock. In total, climb about 300' up the Homestretch to reach the flat summit

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2010-09-10 imike
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Rocky Mountain National Park
    $20 per vehicle, good for up to 7 days. It is free to hike but backpacking/camping permits are extra. View NPS Info

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Estes Park, follow hiway 7 south a bit over 9 miles to the clearly marked turnoff to Longs peak. follow that county rd to the campground or Ranger station just a few miles up the hill. If the parking lot is full, you may park down along the county road. Sign in at the register just after the trail head.
    page created by imike on Sep 10 2010 4:20 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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