Estes Cone (via Longs Peak Trailhead)
|Trail Features:||Panoramic Views, History|
|Trail Location:||Longs Peak Trailhead|
|Roundtrip Length:||6.5 Miles|
|Trailhead Elevation:||9405 Feet|
|Total Elevation Gain:||1790 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||551 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||11,006 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||10.08 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||40.27215|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-105.55682|
This hike to Estes Cone begins from the Longs Peak Trailhead. To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, drive 8.9 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the turnoff for the Longs Peak Ranger Station. From the turnoff drive another mile to the ranger station. Please note that parking is fairly limited, and the lot fills up fairly early, especially on weekends during peak season. Additional parking is available along the roadside leading up to the trailhead, but is also quite limited.
Due to the popularity of the hikes from this trailhead, the length of time to reach most destinations, exposure to afternoon thunderstorms, as well as limited parking, you'll definitely want to arrive as early in the morning as possible, especially on weekends during the summer months. Day hikers planning to summit Longs Peak usually arrive between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Starting at an elevation of roughly 9405 feet, hikers will begin by following the East Longs Peak Trail. From the Longs Peak Ranger Station the trail climbs steeply through a thick forest of lodgepole pine, spruce and fir. Roughly one-half mile from the trailhead you'll arrive at the Eugenia Mine Trail junction. Hikers should turn right here to continue on towards the mine.
As you proceed along the early sections of the Eugenia Mine Trail you may notice your destination peeking through the trees on several occasions. It's the prominent mountain standing almost directly towards the north. Although the name might give you the impression, Estes Cone is not the result of an ancient volcano. Rather, the cone-shaped mountain was formed by natural erosion, mainly due to its relative isolation from the surrounding mountains.
After crossing the footbridge over Inn Brook, roughly 1.4 miles from the trailhead, hikers will reach the site of the historic Eugenia Mine. At the site are the remnants of an old homestead, a discarded steam boiler beside the creek bed, as well as mine tailings just upstream from the trail.
The mine was opened in 1905, and was worked seasonally by Carl Norwell and Dan Slaughter until around 1912. The miners tunneled at least 1500 feet, and installed cart tracks to haul copper sulphide and gold ore out of the slopes of Battle Mountain. Although the Longmont Ledger proclaimed to its readers that "an enormous body of ore has been uncovered," there's no evidence that the men ever made a profit from the venture. Eventually the entrance collapsed, and in the 1960s the national park sealed the mine shaft.
A study conducted by the EPA and the National Park Service several years ago found that the tailings from the mine were leaching small amounts of metals into Inn Brook. However, the researchers also concluded that the effects of cleaning up the tailings would be more harmful to the ecosystem than simply leaving them in place.
Also at the site are the remnants of Carl Norwell's home, where he lived with his wife and two daughters. The home was apparently well furnished, and included a piano that was hauled-in by freight wagon and horses over rough dirt roads. The entertainment the piano provided apparently made the Norwell's quite popular with the locals.
From the mine the trail begins descending towards Moore Park, and at roughly 1.7 miles you'll pass the side trail that leads to the Moore Park Backcountry Campsite. A little further down the trail, at roughly 1.9 miles, hikers will reach a spur trail that leads to private property outside of the park. To continue on towards Estes Cone hikers should turn left at this junction. From here, as the trail begins heading towards the northwest, the terrain becomes progressively steeper.
At roughly 2.6 miles hikers will reach Storm Pass. The trail leading to the right provides hikers with the option of reaching Estes Cone from the Lily Lake area via the Storm Pass Trail. A turn to the left will take you down towards Bear Lake Road. To continue on towards the summit of Estes Cone hikers should proceed straight ahead onto the Estes Cone Trail.
As you might expect, the Estes Cone Trail becomes quite steep, gaining almost 800 feet in just two-thirds of a mile. Hikers should note that there are several sections where the path is faint, and a little hard to read (see photo below on the left). However, if you pay close attention, it shouldn't be a problem. There are several cairns along the rugged route to help guide the way.
At roughly 3.2 miles hikers will finally reach the base of the summit. The official trail continues by following the rock wall for about a hundred feet towards the right. We chose an easier route that leads directly from the point where the trail reaches the summit wall (see photo above on right). Although it wasn't quite the very top of the mountain, this perch still provided outstanding panoramic views. We felt this option was a little safer, and a little more in-line with our pay grade! It's also possible to reach the summit from this point, but there's still a bit of scrambling involved. Either way, caution is needed while ascending the rock wall.
From this rock outcropping you'll have outstanding panoramic views of Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, the mountains along the Continental Divide and in the Mummy Range, as well as much of the Estes Park area.