Via Flattop Mountain
Peaks Included: Taylor Peak BPowell Peak
 Difficult Class 2 
Trailhead:Bear Lake
Start:9,475 feet
Summit:13,208 feet
Total Gain:6,500 feet
RT Length:17.3 miles
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:13 reports
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Go to Estes Park via Hwy 34 or Hwy 36 to the intersection of those two roads. Go west on Hwy 36 business (also known here as Elkhorn) through downtown Estes Park. After a third of a mile, turn left on Moraine to stay on Hwy. 36. There is a sign that says Rocky Mountain National Park headquarters entrance.

After two miles the road splits - stay to the right to go to the park main entrance. The park entrance is two more miles from the split (four miles total from the turn onto Moraine).

A quarter mile into the park, make the first left onto Bear Lake Rd. The sign refers to Bear Lake and Moraine Park.

Take Bear Lake Rd. 9.5 miles to reach the trailhead at the end of the road.


The first step of this route is to ascend to the summit of Flattop Mountain at around 12,300, which is a non-technical approach to the top of Glacier Gorge. From there it is simple to navigate over to the summit of Taylor Peak. The further summit of Powell Peak is visible from the summit of Taylor Peak.

Start from the Bear Lake trailhead ( 2) at 9,475 feet, cross the immediate bridge from the paved trailhead and turn right ( 3). Walk just a few feet to where the circular trail around Bear Lake splits. Go right again ( 4). Walk a few hundred feet around Bear Lake to find the trail leading to Flattop Mountain heading off to the right ( 5).

Ascend on good trail ( 6) through aspen and pine. Around half a mile from the trailhead, intersect another trail and turn left ( 7). The sign there indicates Flattop Mountain summit is 4.0 miles away.

Half a mile later, reach another trail intersection. Go left again ( 8). The sign indicates Flattop Mountain in that direction. Continue on this trail, passing above treeline at around 2.7 miles ( 9) and continuing on good trail ( 10) to the Flattop summit at around 4.5 miles and 12,300 feet.

Once reaching the Flattop summit area, note 12er Hallet Peak to the south ( 11). The main trail leads to a sign noting that the North Inlet trail begins to the north. At that sign, head south instead toward Hallet Peak, following a fainter trail marked with occasional cairns. This trail actually ascends Hallet, which is not the goal, so keep an eye on the southern horizon while traversing on the trail to the west of Hallet Peak. Taylor Peak comes into view at around 5.0 miles and 12,400 feet ( 12), and at this point, leave the trail and head south directly toward Taylor's summit.

The route to Taylor becomes clear now ( 1). Cross the undulating tundra, gaining and losing a few hundred feet over Hallet Peak's western slope and Otis Peak's western slope. Between Otis Peak and Taylor Peak is Andrews Glacier, an alternate approach to this area and the low point (11,960') on the tundra walk before ascending Taylor Peak proper. The tundra and scree ascent of Taylor is clearly visible from here. ( 13). Pick a line and begin the ascent.

Taylor Peak has a 12er sub-summit slightly to the northeast of the main summit. Continue due south during the ascent to climb to the true summit. The top of the sub-summit is visible from the ascent route at 12,640' ( 14). The final push to the true summit is mainly scree ( 15).

Reach Taylor's summit at 7.5 miles and 13,153 feet. Enjoy incredible views of Glacier Gorge, and scope out nearby Powell Peak ( 16). The route from Taylor to Powell is mostly following the cliff edge around ( 17). The cliff cuts deeply north into Taylor's western flank, so head almost half a mile west off Taylor's summit, even though Powell Peak is south, until clearing the cliffs at around 12,850 feet ( 18).

Follow the undulating tundra from there to Powell Peak's summit. The lowest point will be about 12,750 feet. As on Taylor, Powell turns more and more to rocks on the final summit approach ( 19). Reach the summit area and head southwest to the true cairn-marked true technical summit ( 20) at 9.5 miles and 13,208 feet. Don't fall off the dramatic cliffs, and note McHenry's Peak directly across McHenry's Notch ( 21), along with Longs and Chiefs Head in the distance. The traverse to McHenry's is Class 5 from here and not part of this route.

On the return route, there is no need to ascend to Taylor Peak's summit again, but some gain is required on Taylor's western slope. Cross the tundra toward Taylor ( 22), going around the cliff inlets, and pick a line over Taylor's western shoulder ( 23). There is no trail on the rocky traverse ( 24). Continue until the route back toward Hallet Peak becomes visible ( 25), and then follow the approach route back.

It is also reasonable to change the order of the summits on this route, traversing Taylor's western slope first, summiting Powell, and then summiting Taylor on the return.


#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21 #22 #23 #24 #25

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