Longs Peak

Keplinger's Couloir
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: High
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start8,400 feet
Summit14,259 feet
Total Gain5,900 feet
RT Length16 miles
AuthorBrad Snider
Last UpdatedJul 2022
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Take Highway 7 north from Lyons, south from Estes Park, or north from Hwy 72 (the peak-to-peak highway). Look for the sign for the Wild Basin Trailhead entrance on the west side of the road, 7 miles north of Highway 72. Turn onto the access road and turn right to the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance station .15 miles ahead. Park on the right immediately after the entrance station.


From the trailhead, follow the Sandbeach Lake Trail almost all the way to Sandbeach Lake, and turn north (right) off the trail about 0.1 mile before reaching the lake. It is close to four miles of easy hiking to this point.

After leaving the trail, bushwhack northwest through the heavy timber, eventually crossing Hunter Creek at about 11,000 feet. A good GPS is highly recommended for this section of the approach. Along the way, enjoy great views of Mount Meeker and it's Dragon Tail Couloir. Eventually Pagoda Mountain ( 1), then Longs Peak will come into view.

From the hiking trail, it is about 1.6 miles of bushwhacking to reach timberline. Nearby is an unnamed lake, at 11,200 feet. From here, continue straight uphill into the basin ( 2).

Ahead, Keplinger's Couloir is readily visible as the westernmost (farthest left) couloir, splitting Longs' south face ( 3 and 4).

Climbing the couloir is straight-forward, and at its very steepest it may reach 45 degrees. The couloir stretches from 12,000 feet to 13,600 feet ( 5, 6, 7 and 8). Nearing the top, the climber will be immediately to the left of the Palisades and Southeast Longs ( 9 and 14).

At the top of the couloir, turn left (west), onto the ledge or snow-shelf. This section can range from a talus walk-up in summer to steep snow slopes exceeding 50 degrees in the winter ( 10 and 11). This ramp eventually leads to the Homestretch ( 12), where yellow and red bullseyes are painted on the rocks, for the final push to the summit ( 13 and 15).


#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15

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