I had been looking at a map of Rocky Mountain National Park and noticed a new trail that started at Lily Lake that headed up to Storm Pass and Estes Cone. Then I discovered that my parents had donated some money to the park and that money was used to help build that trail, so given that I decided that I had to hike this trail up Estes Cone. So on a beautiful Saturday in August I was joined by my friends Rich and Kelly for this hike from Lily Lake to the summit of Estes Cone. We started at Lily Lake on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. We had clear, sunny skies and temperatures that were a bit on the warm side, but not terribly so. Looking to the southwest, the summit of Estes Cone is easily seen from Lily Lake,
and a bit further off in the distance are the majestic peaks of Meeker and Longs.
The trail sets off from the Lily Lake parking lot and heads south, with the first half mile or so the trail follows a double track dirt road that goes through an open aspen forest, and then it becomes just a foot path as it enters a dense pine forest, at which point the trail turns south and heads down hill into a creek valley. To cross Aspen Brook there is a pretty substantial wooden bridge that crosses 10 to 20 feet above the creek.
After crossing this bridge it is pretty much all uphill until the top of Estes Cones. Shortly after the bridge there are two smaller bridges that cross over little trickles of water, perhaps earlier in the year there is more water in these little creeks, but at this time of year the bridges seemed unnecessary. From there the trail winds around a ridge, first to the north and then to the southwest. Along this length of trail you are walking through a nice pine/spruce forest which on occassion opens up to some vistas of Lily Mountain,
Twin Sisters Peak,
Lily Lake, and the flat open ground just to the east of Longs Peak, but the better views are yet to come.
After 2.7 miles, at Storm Pass, there is a 4 trail junction with one trail that goes west down to the Bear Lake Road near Sprague Lake (about 4 miles), another trail that heads south to the Longs Peak trailhead parking lot, and one trail makes it's final ascent up Estes Cone. So far the trail has been an nice foot path, but here the remaining way of trail up Estes Cone gets significantly steeper and weaves its way around large rocks and while we never get above treeline, the trees get shorter and some of them are quite twisted due to the wind that passes through Storm Pass just to the west, although on this particular day there is not a real strong wind, but still it is a rather brisk one.
The trail weaves its way up through stout, limber pines that as you climb get shorter. The trail is marked by cairns and if you don't pay attention you could easily get off of the "trail."
Estes Cone tops out at 11,006 feet, which is actually below tree line, but since the top of the peak is mostly all rock the top of the peak does not have many trees on it, which offers up some pretty speculator panoramic views of Lily Mountain and Lily Lake
the Mummy Range,
and Mount Meeker and Longs Peak
After spending about an hour up on the summit, enjoying the views, we headed back down the way we came and on the way home we stopped in Lyons at Oskar Blues for a late lunch and a tasty beer.