Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Estes Cone

Distance: 6.1 miles round trip
Elevation 9,425-11,002 ft
Elevation Gain: 2,023 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Tags: #RMNP, #coloradooutdoors

Estes Cone
Estes Cone, on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, is a large volcanic remnant with a cap of flat, erosion resistant rock. The trail to the summit is a journey into an eerie world of twisted, lightening darkened trees. Bring poles and sturdy boots because this trail put the word "rocky" in Rocky Mountains.

While in the trees until the very end, this trail has the advantage of being close to the Denver Metro Area and in possession of some excellent views of Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, and Mt. Ypsilon not to mention Estes Park. There is also one nice meadow crossing, one creek, and one old cabin to break up the monotony.

Rocky upper reaches of Estes Cone
The trail is easy to moderate except for the last 0.7 miles, which ascends 1000 ft straight up the cone. Here the trail switches from dirt and rock to almost entirely rock. In fact the slope and the trail look so much alike that the Rangers have interspersed cairns every 10 feet or so to guide hikers upwards. On this trip, the sky was turning dark and we felt pressured to get to the top as quickly as possible. Not the best option when trail finding.

The summit of the cone consists of four to five rocky outcroppings. The hiker can choose to climb to the highest, which is located to the southwest, or scramble up the closest. On this trip we chose this option again because of the threatening weather. The views are just as grand no matter your choice.

View from the summit
Insider Tip: When descending pay close attention to the junction between Storm Pass and the Estes Cone Trail. This junction is relatively clear going up but not obvious heading down. On the decent, there is a large pine tree blocking the view of an extremely large cairn that marks the spot. Before the tree, Storm Pass shoots off to the left so it is easy to get sucked off in the wrong direction. To continue to the Longs Peak trailhead, you have to go around the tree, around the cairn and up a trail on which the trail signs face away from the descender. Not ideal.

Everyone should climb Estes Cone at least once. The perspective gained of Meeker and Longs, which normally blend into one large massif, is enlightening. The twisted shapes of the pines on the upper slopes of the cone will have you looking for ogres while the summit does have some stellar views.

Storm brewing over Trailridge Road
There are two ways to get to Estes Cone, one is from the Longs Peak trailhead and the other from Lilly Lake trailhead via Storm Pass. The Longs Peak Trailhead is located on the west side of Highway 7 between Allenspark and Estes Park. Beware, parking is very limited fills up early (as in 1AM) in the summer mountain climbing season.

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