At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak
is world-class hiking. When most people think about Rocky Mountain National Park, or Colorado’s 14ers, they think about Longs Peak. The trail is not for the faint of heart; it consists of route finding, rock scrambling, non-technical climbing, extreme exposure, and severe elevation gain. But the views from the top are once-in-a-lifetime. Make sure to read in-depth how to hike Longs Peak
so you know what you are getting yourself in to. Prepare for your trip with water, food, layers and start early—like really early; most recommend beginning your hike at 3 am.
From the trailhead, begin uphill, through the forest, until you reach the subalpine. Follow signs for the summit. The trail is fairly easy to follow until you reach The Boulder Field, where the trail disappears, and route finding skills are essential. The sections of Longs Peak Trail are:
- The Boulder Field: the marked trail ends here, and you will have to navigate boulder field terrain.
- The Keyhole: there is a break in the rock, creating a "keyhole", this is where the climbing route to the summit starts.
- The Ledges: a series of steep and narrow ledges travels along the cliffs edge. You will want to follow red and yellow bull’s eyes.
- The Trough: there is extreme exposure here, and the terrain is very loose, so watch your footing and take extreme caution.
- The Narrows: here you will cross a sheer vertical rock face on a narrow path.
- The Homestretch: a smooth granite wall that you have to hand-and-foot climb to the summit.
- The Summit: the top of Longs Peak! Time for celebration; drink some water, take in the views, and prepare for the climb down.
A great way to experience Longs Peak is on a backpacking trip
. The first days are designed to help you acclimate to the elevation, increasing the chance for a safe and successful summit. With an experienced guide leading the way, you are in expert hands as you navigate this challenging, but rewarding, climb.
Fun fact: John Wesley Powell, along with several others, was the first to summit Longs Peak in 1868. The following year, he would complete his expedition through the Grand Canyon, making him the first to float the entire Colorado River.