Continental Divide Loop
- Guides Choice backpacking trip
- Tremendous diversity for a 5-day trip
- Views of waterfalls and glaciers
- Famous Trail Ridge Road
- Dense forests and lush meadows
- Alpine hiking along the Divide
- Wildlife including elk, moose & more
This extraordinary backpacking trip combines the best of Rocky Mountain National Park in one exciting, 5-day adventure. It features meadow hiking, plunging waterfalls, wildlife sighting opportunities, alpine hiking with spectacular mountain views, creeks and alpine lakes. We begin our journey with a drive across Trail Ridge Road - the highest paved road in the United States. We begin hiking at Summerland Park, a serene setting of mountain rivers, lakes and meadows. Our hike takes us along several mountain creeks and through huge, winding meadow systems. We pass 3 waterfalls before topping out in the alpine country of the Continental Divide. We traverse the divide with stunning views down into the east side of Rocky, and then circle back around through more pristine mountain scenery to our starting point. This is a truly world-class mountain loop hike!
Trip Dates & Booking
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- Shuttle to trailhead: 1.5 hours
- Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 600 feet
This Rocky Mountain National Park backpacking trip begins with a shuttle ride over Trail Ridge Road, which is North America's highest paved road (over 12,000 feet in elevation). We begin our hike at Summerland Park, a beautiful area rich with lakes, streams, meadows and wildlife. The first day's hike leads us through forests and meadows, then up North Inlet Creek past Cascade Falls, a beautiful waterfall we'll pass about half way through the day. This day is a great one for spotting wildlife, as the meadows and forests of North Inlet Creek are fantastic elk, deer, moose, and fox habitat. Our camp for the night is in a lodgepole pine forest a stone's throw from the crystal clear water of North Inlet Creek.
- Hiking Mileage: 4 miles plus optional day hike
- Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We'll have a relaxing morning and a big tasty breakfast before breaking camp and continuing our hike into the high country. We'll climb through a Blue Spruce and Subalpine Fir forest into the stunted, crooked trees of the alpine zone. Finally we'll emerge near treeline onto the lower slopes and ridges of Hallett Peak. Our camp this night is at a breathtaking spot along Hallett Creek.
Once camp is set up you'll have the option to join the guide for a 4 mile roundtrip hike up to Andrews Pass for a spectacular view of Andrews Glacier. If you're up for it, this hike is one not to be missed!
- Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1250 feet
- Elevation Loss: 1750 feet
Day 3's hike is the crown jewel of this trip. We'll get an early start and begin our 8 mile hike along the Continental Divide, where our route snakes across the shoulders of Hallett Peak (12,713'), Flattop Mountain (12,324'), and Ptarmigan Point (12,363'). The views from these treeless slopes are endless, and the hiking is truly unforgettable. Our high point of the hike is near Ptarmigan Pass (12,164') where we'll peak over the Divide for a view of Ptarmigan Glacier, Odessa Lake, and Fern Lake. Our hike gradually drops us into the forests of Tonahutu Creek and our camp for the night, which is at the edge of another beautiful meadow.
- Hiking Mileage: 6 miles plus optional morning hike
- Elevation Loss: 1,200 feet
We'll begin day 4 with a quick snack and a hike to Haynach Lakes, a series of majestic alpine lakes set in a stunning mountain cirque. If all members of the group join the hike, the guide will prepare a hot breakfast at the edge of these lakes. For some guests this morning's hike and breakfast are the highlight of the trip.
After breakfast we'll return to camp and get packed up. Our loop hike takes us further down Tonahutu Creek, past Granite Falls to a series of meadows called Big Meadows. Today's hike travels through more fantastic wildlife habitat. We'll make camp at the edge of a vast meadow, which is reminiscent of Yellowstone's famous meadows. The clear trout waters of Tonahutu Creek winding through seemingly endless knee-high grass makes for a relaxing and appropriate final night of our trip.
- Hiking Mileage: 3.5 miles
- Elevation Loss: 500 feet
- Shuttle to Estes Park: 1.5 hours
After a relaxing morning and a tasty, hot breakfast we'll break our final camp and complete our hike back to the starting point. Today's hike is primarily in a Lodgepole Pine forest with occasional meadows dotting our way along Tonahutu Creek. It's another great day for wildlife viewing opportunities. We'll arrive at the vehicle in late morning or early afternoon and finish the trip with our shuttle back over Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park.
Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.
- Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
- Use of trekking poles
- All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
- A professional, knowledgeable, certified Rocky Mountain hiking guide
- Entrance fees and national park permits
- Transportation for the duration of the trip beginning and ending in Estes Park, CO
- Bear cannisters for food storage
- Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
- You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!
- Clothes, raingear and footwear
- Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
- Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
- Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.
For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
We provide all group gear which includes the following:
- Deuter or Osprey backpacks
- Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
- Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
- Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
- Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
- Cooking stoves and cookware
- Bear cannisters
- Company-issued first-aid kit
- Satellite phone
We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.
Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).
Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!
You will meet your guide and group in Estes Park, Colorado at the Estes Park Mountain Shop (2050 Big Thompson Ave) at 5:00 PM the evening before your trip begins for an orientation meeting. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip to answer any questions you have, provide you with more details about your exact trip, and coordinate the rendezvous.
Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.
Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).
Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.
Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.
Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.
The standard group size on Rocky Mountain National Park backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a private tour maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.
Age restrictions are as follows:
- 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
- 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis
Being a high mountain environment, the Rocky Mountains are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in Colorado's high country. On trips in June, snow is a slight possibility, and the rest of the summer rain is always a possibility on your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures:
|Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)|
High / Low
Camping on Backpacking Trips
Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.
Fresh & Delicious
Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.
In the Action
Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.