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Flattop Mountain & Tyndall Glacier RMNP, CO
mini location map2013-08-21
7 by photographer avatarMike_Fels
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Flattop Mountain & Tyndall Glacier RMNP, CO 
Flattop Mountain & Tyndall Glacier RMNP, CO
Hiking avatar Aug 21 2013
Hiking9.90 Miles 3,008 AEG
Hiking9.90 Miles
3,008 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
A few weeks ago I had made a couple day visit to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) as part of a National Park road trip. That taste of the place made me want to return. I saw my chance so here I am for seven days of hiking to my heart’s content. I got a place to stay in Estes Park, CO to be close to the trail heads.

Day 1
Trailhead elevation = 9,475‘ Destination elevation = 12,324’
Figured I’d go to the park rangers to get some advice on trails, but they wouldn’t be open early enough for the first day. After careful deliberation Flattop Mountain looked to be a good first choice. The desk clerk at the hotel said sunrise was at 5:45 so I left a 4:30 wakeup call.

Estes Park is a small town and I quickly found out that none of the restaurants opened until 6:00am or later, except McDonald’s which opened at 5:00. So Mickey D’s it was. Got to the trailhead by 5:45 and found it completely dark. Something about dashing into a dark unknown forest made me decide to wait until I could see at least where I was placing my feet.

The morning had a haze to the air giving the mountains a smokey look. From an area I had a good view of at least 7 ridges. From one portion of the trail that was on the edge of a cliff I had a nice view of Dream lake 500’ below. Then further up the trail had a view of Emerald Lake about 1200’ below. About that time I could see that the trees were visibly shrinking as I approached the tree line at a little over 11,300’. Still a forest but of trees rarely over 6’ tall. A little higher and the trees were gone.

Also about at the tree line snow fields started to be found. The peak of Flattop Mountain is rather anticlimatic. At the top there was a faint trail heading over to one of the 5 glaciers in RMNP, Tyndall Glacier. Very interesting that the glacier is even there as it is hanging on the mountain wall at about a 50 degree angle. Looking down from the top edge it looks to be vertical. From my position at the head of Tyndall Glacier I could look east seeing Estes Park Lake and to the west Grand Lake. I was obviously poised on the continental divide.

My next choice was to either return or move up to Hallett Peak. But the additional 400’ looked like just to much for the first day at this elevation. So down it was.

As I made it back to the last half mile of the hike I came across 8 monks with shaved heads and purple robes walking an offshoot trail. No idea where they were from or where they were going.

I saw a marmot, several pikas and the first ptarmigans I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the most fantastic views. Chipmunks were running all over the place.

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