witness elk pondering wildflowers
This is a moderate hike connecting Poudre Lake to Rocky Mountain National Park's Alpine Visitor Center. Aside from 0.9 miles when the trail is in the woods by the lake, the hike offers fabulous 360-degree views of meadows, tundra, snow-covered peaks, and river valleys.
There are two trails in RMNP that are called Ute Trail. The other trail begins at Ute Crossing, along Trail Ridge Road, southeast of the Alpine Visitor Center.
If hiking from Poudre Lake up to the Visitor Center, note that there is a substantial ascent up numerous switchbacks for the first 0.7 miles. If you're not accustomed to the altitude (10,700 feet and higher) or aren't in good shape, you might consider hiking from the top down and organizing a shuttle to take you back to the Visitor Center. Also note that in peak season parking at both Milner Pass (by Poudre Lake) and the Visitor Center may be full. So it's best to go early. Lastly, be aware of the weather, especially in the afternoon. Lightning strikes can be deadly.
Starting at Poudre Lake find the trail on the south side of the lake. The packed-dirt path follows the curve of the lake for a short distance before entering the woods. Once in the woods, the hike becomes a workout as you climb the switchbacks leading generally in a southeast direction. After the switchbacks the trail straightens out and the woods starts to thin out, offering occasional looks at nearby peaks and the Poudre River Valley to the west. At about the 0.9-mile mark the trees no longer limit your views, the ascent becomes more gradual, and you feel like "this is what I hiked up here for!".
Wildflowers will become more and more plentiful as you continue the hike and elk can often been seen grazing in the fields. At about the 2.25-mile mark, take the time to venture off-trail into the meadow to the east. Turn around and soak up the views, both distant and near. Once back on the trail, you'll continue to ascend in a straight-forward fashion to the Visitor Center. Return the way you came.
While there is certainly snow-melt and a few small ponds near the upper portions of the trail, there are no sources of "ready to drink" water along the trail.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.