Another trip up Flattop Mountain

Last year while in Estes Park, Colorado a friend and I hiked up Flattop Mountain which is 12,324 feet above sea level. It is classified as a difficult hike but my friend was as willing as I was to attempt the hike. The trail head is at Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park and starts at 9,475 feet above sea level. The altitude gain on the hike is 2,849 feet and the distance is 4.4 miles one way. The hike took us a little more than 7 hours to make the round trip. After we completed the hike, I asked him if he wanted to do it again this year since we were both coming back. He said he would like to do another hike since there are over 350 miles of hiking trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Sounds like a plan to me!

This year our daughter and her husband along with their 5 children decided that they wanted to come to Estes Park and see why we like it so much. Rather than rent a camper and follow us up here, they rented a camper that is maintained here in the park. They flew into Denver and drove from there to Estes Park.

When I knew that they were coming up here, I asked my son-in-law if he would be willing to hike Flattop Mountain with me. He could hardly say no since he knew that his 67 year old father-in-law had already hiked the mountain once. When we used to go to Concan, Texas, we would always hike up Old Baldy in Garner State Park. That hike is fairly steep but it only goes to about 2,000 feet and only gains about 350 feet from the start. Flattop Mountain gains over 2800 feet vertically.

We started our hike at 7:20 AM so that we would be sure to be headed down hill before noon. The weather in the mountains can change very quickly at anytime of the year. It is always best to be coming down before the afternoon thunderstorms begin to build. You are much more vunerable to lightning strikes when you are above the tree line. Last week there was a hiker struck by lightning while he was hiking Long’s Peak alone.  We were very fortunate on this trip to have very nice weather with no rain in sight.

The views along the trail leading to the top of Flattop Mountain are very spectacular.  My son-in-law has never been in the mountains here in Colorado and was very impressed with what he saw.  It is very interesting to see how the plant life changes as you go higher in altitude.  The trees start big and get smaller and smaller until the finally stop and give way to the tundra.  In the tundra there is nothing but the small plants that have been able to adapt to the cold temperatures that are present all the time.  Some of the small flowers have tap roots that are 6 feet long.  This enables them to find water deep underground.

On one of our many rest stops above the tree line, my son-in-law wanted to know what was on top, “more rocks?”  Well yes, there are more rocks but the scenry from up there is wonderful.  I think he was wondering if it was worth the effort to continue to the top, but once up there, he was glad that we continued to the end.

This was my second trip to Flattop Mountain and I plan to make several more.  We come to Estes Park every year, so I think I will make it an annual event if I can get someone to go with me.  I’d like to do Long’s Peak but I don’t think I could make the extra 2,000 feet vertical climb that would be necessary.  Maybe in my next life!

Brad and Sterling on Flattop Mountain

My son-in-law and I on top of Flattop Mountain

Plaque on Mountain

Plaque above tree line with info about mountain weather



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