Trail Name: Flat Top Mountain Trail
Location: Near Estes Park, Colorado in the Rocky Mountain National Park
Date: August 13, 2019
Time at the Trail Head: 6:30am
Trail Length: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,870 feet
Elev. at Trail Head: 9,455 feet
# of Hikers Passed: 50+
# of Mnt. Bikers Passed: 0
# of Horses Passed: 0
My son and daughter love the area around Estes Park and they had been here before with a group of friends, so the research to find this trail was really no research at all.
The Drive from Denver
The drive from the center of Denver takes about 2 hours. The most direct route is through Boulder, Lyons, Estes Park and then on to the trail head in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Another beautiful drive is to go a little farther out-of-the-way up I-25, through Loveland, Estes Park and then on to RMNP. This route ads about 15 to 20 minutes to the drive but it is less traveled and you get to drive through some beautiful canyons west of Loveland and the road follows a gorgeous river all the way into Estes Park.
Driving Tip: The route through Loveland can actually be faster during the summer months as most tourists travel through Lyons to Estes Park.
My daughter, Grace, and I woke up at 3:30am and hit the road by 4:30 so we could get to the trailhead by sunrise. We started our drive from the south side of Denver near Englewood.
I have learned the best times to get out in Colorado is early. The weather is usually nicer in the mornings, the traffic is lighter and getting to the trailhead before the crowds get there is especially nice.
We had a great drive up through Loveland, Colorado. We had never taken this route before and we wanted to see if this way was better or prettier than driving through Lyons. I can’t say it’s better but it is just as nice and it is a better route when you know the traffic will be heavy.
Our Day on the Trail
Getting to the RMNP early is great as we missed a lot of traffic, plus, if you arrive early, the park entrance gates are open and there is no one there to ask for money. I’m not about cheating the park service, and we didn’t, as we have an annual National Parks pass, but I thought I would give you a little money saving tip. Another tip is, pay for the National Park pass, which is only about $80 and the one-day pass to the RMNP is around $40. You’re not paying much more and if you visit more than once then you have paid for the annual pass. Only pay the $40 if you know this will be the only national park you will visit this year.
We arrived at the trailhead around 6:30am. The sun was just coming up over the eastern horizon and the parking lot was only a quarter full or less. The facilities are first-rate and there was a park ranger there to greet us. It was an absolutely stunning day as you can see from one of our first photos on the trail.
The trail is extremely well maintained and it is a popular trail. This trail takes you to Flattop Mountain but then on to Hallet Peak if you want to continue on.
The climb was steep in parts but definitely manageable for Grace and me. We were over 10,000 feet in elevation pretty quick so make sure you’re ready for the altitude and drink a lot of water.
I almost forgot to mention that this is the hike where Grace and I saw the hiker that had the emergency satellite messenger strapped to his backpack. I stopped and asked him what it was and that’s when he told me what it was.
He said that he hikes a lot by himself and having it lets his wife know where he is and he can always send a message if he needs help. It gives his family peace of mind knowing that he is really never alone and can always call for help.
- S. O. S. - in an emergency, send an S. O. S. With your GPS location to geos, who facilitates search and rescue
- Check in - let contacts know where you are and that you're okay with a pre-programmed message
- Help/spot S. O. V. - request help from your friends and family at your GPS location. OR, ask for help from professional assistance organizations
- Custom message- let contacts know where you are by sending a pre-programmed message with your GPS location
- Track- automatically send and save your location and allow contacts to track your progress using google maps
If you would like to know more about this satellite messenger, you can see more about it here at my SPOT Gen3 Review.
The scenery was great for our entire hike and we always had great views of Longs Peak.
I have to admit that this was the highest point we reached as I had to be back for a meeting in Denver by 1:30pm. We spent a little over four hours on the trail and were close to Flattop Mountain. We will have to go back another day to finish it and continue on to Hallets Peak.
This goes to show you that you can have a great hike in the Rockies and be back home by 1pm if you get up early enough.
On the way back down the trail we passed at least 40 hikers heading up the trail. Everyone was really nice and even though it was a busy trail, it was still enjoyable.
We had a chance to stop at Bear Lake near the trailhead and take in the beautiful scenery.
As you can see, this would be a great lake to get some great photos and relax for a while. It looks like there are 20 or more lakes in this area, plus waterfalls, so you could go back to this one area for years and still not see everything it has to offer.
Grace and I love this area and this trail. My son, Caleb, and daughter, Grace have been here many times over the years as they have gone to the week-long camp at Ravencrest, just southeast of Estes Park.
Another one of Caleb and Grace’s favorite things to do is to head into Estes Park and enjoy some shopping, which they never want to do with their parents, and also have a great time on Estes lake in Estes Park.
This was an incredible hike. The entire area from the drive to the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and Estes Park is a great place to come and enjoy for everyone.
Please leave a Comment Below or Email me if you have any questions or would like to share your experience with this area.
Return to Home Page
Flattop Mountain Trail
Lake or Stream Views9.5/10
Well Maintained Trails10.0/10
- Easy Access
- Mountain Views
- Mountain Lakes
- Well Maintained Trails
- Much More to See There
- Heavily Traveled Trail
- Traffic is Bad Latter in the Day
- May Have to Shuttle to Trailhead