Longs Peak Trail is a 13.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Estes Park, CO that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.
Give yourself plenty of time to summit! Most information recommends close to 14 hours to complete this. It has a history of being a very electric (lightning) mountain. The winds can be very strong at the keyhole, yet once you pass through a little ways, they become more gentle. Adding Chasm Lake onto this can be a nice reward, offering perspective as to the peak you just summited.
Sept 11th was my 4th successful summit of Longs Peak over the last nearly 30 yrs. I must get amnesia in-between making this climb as its a very mentally and physically tough one. One also needs to understand the true danger aspects you're exposed to in order to summit.
10 Strong suggestions:
1. Leave the trailhead no later than 2:30 AM to summit by 10:00AM latest.
2. Carry at least 4 liters water (or a RO filter/pump)
3. Avoid weekends and holidays as more people = more risk to you from falling rock and critical point traffic jams!
4. Understand it is summer conditions at the lower elevations and winter conditions where the climb is toughest. Never have been at summit where it's above freezing in Aug/Sept climbs.
5. Aerobically condition, condition, condition especially if you live at lower elevations like I do in KS.
6. Don't do it if you have a fear of heights as there are several places where you have a wall of rock on one side and an abrupt 2000 ft drop off on the other. I've seen people freeze and panic and have to be talked through step by step.
7. Have a contingency day and go on the best day forecast.
8. If the weather turns, abandon attempt quickly and get to tree line ASAP if thunderstorm forms! I learned the hard way in my 20's and the lightening was horrific in Boulder field! You could feel the static electricity literally like the wind and there is no where to escape up there!!
9. Do it once and move on!! Lol! Note to self: re-read point 9!
10. Revel in your successful climb of Longs as you are in a very elite group as most anyone can do 20 or more of the other 14'ers without most of the risks Longs throws at you!
Started at 2:00 am and summited at 10:00 am. This was my first 14er so anyone fairly fit can do this hike. It's much more mental than physical. We were lucky with good weather the whole way up and down, until the keyhole when we hit snow and rain (even though it was 80 when the sun was out). Between the three of us we packed about 8-10L of water. We were giving water to strangers around us who ran out but we're empty when we returned to the trailhead. All three of us thought this trail was very difficult and required a lot of concentration once you pass the keyhole because it's easy to lose footing or for the wind to throw you off balance. Definitely not recommended for people with high anxiety. This was a big bucket lister that I had to do but never again.
Very well marked and maintained trail. The trail gets more difficult past the Keyhole but doable if you take your time. Prepare for any weather and enjoy.
Started hike at 2:00 AM and summited by 8:30 with my buddy. Was fortunate to have clear weather in the morning. Don't feel overdetermined to summit if the weather is not clear and the sun is obscured by dark clouds. Even from Boulder field, it is another 2-3 hours AT LEAST to the summit and it would be a shame to be forced to rush an awesome break at the top in an effort to avoid getting struck by lightning.
Killer 360 views from the top. I would definitely recommend sturdy hiking boots and a gallon of water. Despite adding a few more pounds to the entire ordeal, the stability and ankle support in Boulder field, the trough, and narrows is a necessity. I'd also bring a little snack for a break at the keyhole.
Can't wait to go again
I wanted to do something epic on my 30th birthday. Well me and my friends will never forget this day as we climbed this beautiful Longs Peak hike. We started at 4.30pm. That was relatively early but we saw flashlights blinking way up along the trail. Our group of three was hiking at a steady speed and by 9am we reached the keyhole. Sun rose upon the north Denver valley and its rays reached us rite at the end of boulder field. Sun warmed us up significantly and lightened breathtaking views of keyhole front wall. It was fun and challenging to climb last hundreds feet to keyhole. Someone told us it will get flatter there so we were excited to finish hard climbing part. But once we reached the keyhole and peaked our heads to the other side we faced the giant drop, rocks were sliding thousands feet down. Imagine a big bowl or a crater and u on the very top of it. Now to reach the summit u have to scramble along the edge of this bowl, than climb up rite on the slippery cliff, go along the edge again and climb 45 degrees up again... Well and all of this without belay... Really? No thank you! Those people were climbing up and down and I was terrified how it's possibly done. Aren't they afraid of their life?! I would finish the hike if I knew someone will catch me if I fall down. Still amazing hike. We got down at around 2pm, hiked about 16 miles all together. It was sunny and clear. I will never forget this day and adrenaline rush I got climbing over the keyhole.
Very challenging to say the least. Gets harder and more dangerous as you go but never gets quite as scary as the pictures and some accounts lead you to believe. Of course there ARE plenty of "you fall you die" spots on the narrows and ledges, and if you encounter snow or ice it would be a whole different ballgame. I had good weather and dry surfaces and finished in a little under 12 hrs. Could have easily done in under 11 with less chit chat and rests. 48 yrs old, 215lbs in decent shape with 1- 1/2 days acclim. coming from OK. 15 lb pack. Several spots to filter water up to and including boulder field. Wore Salomon Speedcross 3's. Took heavy hikers for downhiking but never needed
Pilkes Peak is a great 14er for those who have done one before. It's a bit more difficult than most and is a long hike (a little over 13 mi round trip). The hike up to the Keyhole trail is similar to most 14ers, however, when you pass through the Keyhole the trail to the peak changes dramatically and can be a bit intense for those not ready for scrambling.
I highly recommend once you've completed a few easier to moderate 14ers.
So much fun! Lots of people on a weekend but still worth it. Took about 8.5 hours
Be prepared to spend 14hrs on this trail.
Very difficult to get there. We started at 2 am, would leave at 1:30 ish next time. The way there is dark so you don't see how uphill it is. It has lots of Rocky steps that never end, all uphill there. Coming down in the daylight made me realize why it's done at night- so you can't see how awful it is and quit. Realized Boulder field does have a slight trail, look for the stacked rocks! Getting to the keyhole is kinda like rock climbing towards the end. The rocks get big and very steep. Very little room in the actual keyhole to sit, it gets claustrophobic. Was too tired to attempt to summit- thought it would be hard to get back through Boulder field but it wasn't hard for me. Poles are a must and 4 big water bottles. Beautiful trail when the sun comes up, gophers and rocks everywhere
past the keyhole is when it becomes more then a hike. Absouluty breataking
Such a fun hike with breathtaking views. The hike to keyhole wasn't too bad, but past the keyhole can be pretty brutal, especially the trough. The homestretch wasn't as bad as when people explained it to me. Overall the best hike I've ever done.
Excellent but not for the unexperienced hiker. Conditions can be harsh and changes drastic (I was either freezing or burning underneath the sun). There are two points to stock up on fresh glacier water. It's delicious. Drink it. Don't eat the flowers. The death march over the boulders and up the final stretch of Long's Peak includes some "don't f*** up" 5.4 slab scrambles. Be smart. Get an alpine start. Bring both a fleece and a puffy. Bring plenty of snacks. Enjoy.
Most fun hiking/scrambling I have ever had! Perfect trail to cut your teeth on scrambles.
It's inaccurate to say you hike Long's because of the non-technical climbing required to reach the top. This was one of the most, if not the most, challenging experience I've ever had.
As a non-local and only having didn't 3 months here in Colorado, I've completed five 14ers, with this being my last. Becoming acclimated was timely, and going on various hikes to build up that endurance has helped substantially.
However, compared to locals and regulars, I think I've done well. I can't encourage people who have not prepared to do this climb.
We backpacked to Boulderfield the first day of the Fourth of July weekend. Took us almost 6 hours to get there since we were way over loaded. The view up to Boulderfield was marvelous, with a decent elevation gain and changes in vegetation from tall trees to bushes to tundra and finally bald. If I only did a day hike to Boulderfield I would also give it five stars.
Camping at Boulderfield was something new to me. I had never camped above the tree line and the condition looked very harsh. We had to hop between the rocks to 100 yards away to cook and store the bear canisters. It was quite windy that night but fortunately it didn't rain in the afternoon. The Ramen noodle packets we brought were bulging like a ball when we took them out...
The next morning we started hiking towards the Key Hole at 6. It took us more than half an hour and some hard scramble to get there. At the Key Hole I felt I was about to be blown off the ledge, and I got scared of the height. One of us returned to the campsite as planned, while two of us (myself included) were supposed to continue. I couldn't move to the Ledges so my buddy moved on while I hesitated. I sat there for 10 min and decided to move in small steps to as far as I feel comfortable. Somewhere along the Ledges I was stopped by a boulder that I could not pass so I sat there watching the absolutely stunning view while feeling sorry for myself. An older gentleman came and encouraged me to walk on. I wouldn't have made an inch further hadn't he grab my hand and literally steered me across the ledge and snow patches.
I met up with my buddy (who was now as scared as me) at the bottom of the Trough. He was thinking of quitting but saw that I had made it to that point also so we continued. It was very hard climbing up when the Trough was still covered by snow. At the Narrows we became more brave (that or we were so beaten by the Trough that we didn't care any more), and saw the gentleman that helped me on his way back. We also saw a couple of people running up and managed to stay just at the edge of the rocks, while we clung to the wall and moving like turtles and having short breaths. What are these people made off?!
Homestretch was another couple of hours. We were the last two to reach the summit (12:30pm) and felt proud, excited, but at the same time anxious (crossing our fingers that we didn't get struck by lightening though it was still clear sky).
On the descend at Homestretch my buddy slipped and fell some 30 yards and was fortunately stopped by a big rock but his body was bruised (no major injury). My mind went blank when I saw him roll across the slope. After confirming he was OK I slid down on my butt (eventually got a soaked cold butt) all the way to the joint with the Narrows. I was disheartened to see the snow patch that I walked over on the ascend had melted into a shiny slippery ice patch. Below me there was no rock to stop me had I fell, but the next rock that I could step on was 7 feet below and 5 feet to the right. I was too short for a solid grip on either side, and my mind went blank again thinking it was a risk or die situation and I was not ready to die! So I gathered all my courage to make a hole with the tip of my ice axe (while I leaned on my back facing the cliff) and hung my body weight to the axe and swung to the lower right rock stop. Thank god I made it and I honestly don't even know how. My poor buddy must have been devastated when he made to the same point 5 min later. But he magically pulled it off too.
I experienced some moderate high altitude sickness at the Ledges. I was also dehydrated to the point that I'd kneel down to lick directly from the snow water puddles and grab ice that was covered by little flies to eat. Height became no threat and I walked slowly towards the Key Hole like a zombie. By the time I emerged at the Key Hole it was already 5:30 pm. It took me 40 more minutes to get back to the campground and it felt awful.
We were initially planning to be back in 6 hours and hike down to catch our flight back at 10:30pm in Denver. It was impossible. So we decided to camp another night and buy three last minute tickets the next day. If I had walked one more step I felt I would have been dead. Our poor friend had waited anxiously for 6 hours without knowing if we were still alive. At around 10pm my buddy insisted calling his girlfriend to let her know about our situation. When he managed to walk 50 yards away to pick up some cellphone signal and called her at home, she told him she had just called the ranger station 10 min ago and a rescue had started (I suppose it would have started the next morning, not deep into the night). He asked her to call them back to call off the rescue...otherwise it would have been really embarrassing...
Overall it was a scary experience for me, but because we didn't anticipate time as realistically as we should have, and we didn't bring enough water (I only brought one bottle). I wish I was bett