On Day 1, after the DIA airport pick up, we’ll shuttle to Wild Basin, the southernmost trailhead in the National Park. We’ll have a warm-up hike to beautiful Calypso Cascades and nearby Ouzel Falls. We’ll make a loop hike by returning on the little-used North St. Vrain Trail (6 miles). Wildlife abounds on this quiet trail. Estes Park serves as our overnight for the first three nights.
Day 2 we’ll head to the Longs Peak Trailhead. Our destination will be Chasm Lake. We will begin our hike at (9380′), on the East Longs Peak trail. This trail starts in a forest and rises to treeline and above. The beaming Longs Peak Mountain will stay in our sight all day long. Deer and Elk will be a visual treat along the way, not to mention hopes for the high alpine trifecta: marmot, ptarmigan and pica. ( 8.4 miles). We return to the tourist town of Estes Park and its many opportunities for souvenirs and ice cream!
We’ll hike on Day 3 from the Glacier Gorge trailhead, following Glacier Creek as it continues its course through the Gorge. Early in the hike, we’ll pass by Alberta Falls, and then it’s on to some of the park’s higher alpine lakes. After passing Mills Junction, we enter the majestic Glacier Gorge. We soon arrive at Mills Lake, a beautiful subalpine lake, then Jewel Lake with an even more impressive mountain backdrop. We pass through ideal moose habitat, just before Ribbon Falls, which leads us to the foot of Black Lake. This spectacular alpine lake fills a deep cirque basin carved out of the base of multiple majestic peaks.
Day 4 we’ll hop a shuttle to the popular Bear Lake trailhead. Soon we will leave the crowds behind as we ascend a ridge, then meander our way along the flank of Flattop Mountain past Lake Helene. Here we meet the spectacular valley of Fern Creek where we skirt on a high ledge past the peaks of Notchtop, Knobtop, Gabletop, and Little Matterhorn. We continue down the valley past shimmering Lake Odessa and serene Fern Lake. After joining the Thompson River at The Pool, we exit the flat valley to the shuttle stop. You are almost guaranteed to see herds of elk in this valley. After reuniting with the van, we transfer up over stunning Trail Ridge road – the highest continuously paved road in the country. We’ll be above tree line for much of the drive, topping out at 12,183 ft. right near the Alpine Visitor Center. At this elevation, we could experience winter in July! We then descend on the western side to Grand Lake for our last two nights.
On Day 5, we’ll challenge the North Inlet Trail, which is also a part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. We follow the creek uphill, becoming increasingly lusher, to beautiful Cascade Falls, a spectacular, multi-tiered cascade that drops roughly 40 or 50 feet through a narrow granite chute. (7 miles).
Day 6, our final day, we’ll shuttle back into the park to the Old Ute Trailhead at Poudre Lake and one final visit to the park’s vast alpine world above the treeline. We’ll hike from Poudre’s lakeshore through the fascinating rock spires and hanging gardens above the lake, emerge from the trees at timberline and continue on to Fall River Pass and the Alpine Visitor Center (5 miles). Following lunch in Estes Park, we’ll return to Denver.