Tuesday, March 17, 2015

RMNP: The Planned Routes

Now that I've received confirmations for the campsites I will be staying at, I can finalize the routes I will hike.  Here is the plan:

I will be driving up to Estes Park, CO on Sunday and spending the night in town.  The next morning I will drive into the park and park my car in the Bear Lake Park & Ride lot.  From here I will catch the free shuttle to the trailhead at Bear Lake.

(Click on any of the following maps to see a larger version.)

Day One - Bear Lake Trailhead to North Inlet Falls campsite.
I think Day One will be, by far, the hardest day.  Both the trailhead and my first campsite, North Inlet Falls, are around 9,500 ft (2,895 m) in elevation (my house is around 1,000 ft).  In between I climb to the top of Flattop Mountain which is around 12,307 ft (3,751 m).  The total length of this hike is around 8.9 miles (14.3 km).

When I reach the top of Flattop Mountain I will be joining a section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).  The CDT, along with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, make up the big three American hiking trails.

Day Two - North Inlet Falls campsite to Paint Brush campsite.
On Day Two will potentially be my longest hiking day.   Potentially because I'm not sure exactly how long it actually will be.  The maps I have do not agree on where the Paint Brush campsite is.  They agree on which trail it's on but not where along the trail.  I will have to ask for clarification at the backcountry office before I start.  I estimate it is a manageable 9.8 miles (15.8km) but it could be a mile or two longer.

The question is how the altitude will affect my endurance.  The first half of this day I will be walking down saving the up for the later half of the day.  Not exactly ideal   It's less than 1,000 ft of elevation climb though so it should be OK if I just pace myself.

Where my route turns north I will temporarily leave the CDT.

Day Three - Paint Brush campsite to Renegade campsite.
Rejoining the CDT, Day Three will be my recuperation day because it is also the shortest hiking day at 5.8 miles (9.3 km).  (This distance may also be wrong depending on where exactly Paint Brush campsite is located.)  I was going to divide Day Two and Three more evenly but the perfect campsite for Day Two was closed forcing me to lengthen Day Two and shorten Day Three.
While it is a shorter hike, it does climb more in elevation.  There is a small side trail near Renegade campsite that I may hike if I feel up to it.  This side trail passes a llama camp.  Llamas are used by rangers as pack animals.  Might be interesting to visit the camp.

Day Four - Renegade campsite to Sourdough campsite.
Day Four I return to Flattop Mountain and head back down the same trail I climbed up on Day One.  I come within a mile of the trailhead that I started on before turning back west and north to end my day at the Sourdough campsite.  This day is a combination of up and down and is roughly 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long.  I should be acclimatized by the Day Four.

Day Five - Sourdough campsite to Bear Lake Park & Ride.
Day Five - my last day in the park - I will take a roundabout course passing by five lakes (at varying distances) until I come out at the Bear Lake Park & Ride where my car will hopefully be waiting for me.  The last hike will be 8.8 miles (14.2 km) with most of the elevation change being the down kind.

A night in Estes Park to wash off the stink and fill the stomach before I head home on Saturday.

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