|Trail Features:||Outstanding Views|
|Trail Location:||Bear Lake|
|Roundtrip Length:||10.3 Miles|
|Trailhead Elevation:||9475 Feet|
|Total Elevation Gain:||3240 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||629 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||12,713 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||16.78 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||40.31196|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-105.64581|
"Mountaineering, in its broader sense, promotes the health and strength of the body, it teaches self-reliance, determination, presence of mind, necessity for individual thought and action, pride of accomplishment, fearlessness, endurance, helpful cooperation, loyalty, patriotism, the love of an unselfish freedom, and many other qualities that make for a sturdy manhood and womanhood."
- Roger Toll, superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park from 1921 to 1929, and charter member of the Colorado Mountain Club.
The hike to Hallett Peak begins from the Bear Lake Trailhead located at the end of Bear Lake Road, 9 miles from the turn-off at Highway 36. Due to the extreme popularity of the area you may want to consider using the free park shuttle to access the trailhead during the peak tourist season.
From the trailhead hikers will immediately make a right turn onto the Bear Lake Loop Trail. After a short walk along the eastern shore of Bear Lake you’ll make another right turn onto the trail that leads towards Flattop Mountain. From here the trail passes through a nice aspen grove as it begins ascending the slopes of the Bierstadt Moraine.
Roughly one-half mile from the trailhead you’ll reach the trail that leads to Bierstadt Lake and the Mill Creek Basin. Hikers should take a left at this junction to continue on towards Hallett Peak.
From here the route begins heading due west. As it climbs higher you’ll have spectacular views of Longs Peak, the Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda Peak and Chiefs Head Peak, looking towards the south.
At just over one mile from the trailhead hikers will reach the Flattop Mountain Trail junction, which forks off to the left and begins ascending the eastern slopes of the mountain.
According to Rocky Mountain National Park: A History, the Arapaho and Ute Indians likely traveled across the park using east-west routes such as Trail Ridge, Forest Canyon, Fall River and Flattop Mountain, in order to reach traditional hunting grounds on the Great Plains. The Arapaho Indians called the Flattop Mountain corridor “The Big Trail”. At one time the Flattop Mountain Trail was also known as the Grand Trail. A pathway was formally constructed in 1925, was rehabilitated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940, and is now currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Once on the Flattop Mountain Trail the climb becomes steeper, and the grade becomes moderately difficult almost all the way to the Flattop Mountain summit. Roughly 1.7 miles from the trailhead, at an elevation of 10,480 feet, hikers will reach the Dream Lake Overlook where you’ll have a great view of Longs Peak. This is also a great place to take a break.
At 2.4 miles, and an elevation of roughly 11,000 feet, hikers will finally emerge from the tree line and enter the scrub pine / krummholz zone. At this point outstanding panoramic views begin to open up, especially towards the east where you'll be able to see Bierstadt Lake, Sprague Lake and much of the Glacier Basin area.
At 3 miles you’ll reach the Emerald Lake Overlook, another spot that offers stunning views. This vantage point sits more than 1200 feet above Emerald Lake. Off to your right is Hallett Peak. From here, as you continue to climb higher, the trail begins to enter the more barren and rocky terrain of the open tundra.
Just below the summit of Flattop Mountain, roughly 3.9 miles from the trailhead, hikers will reach a horse hitch rack where you’ll have outstanding views of Hallett Peak and the Tyndall Glacier. From this point you have less than 200 feet of climbing left to reach the Flattop summit. You’ll also notice that the slope begins to become progressively shallower, and almost levels out over the last third-of-a-mile.
Hikers will reach the end of the Flattop Mountain Trail when they reach the junction with the North Inlet and Tonahutu Creek trails. Although there are no signs indicating you’re at the top, this is usually recognized as the summit of Flattop Mountain. At this junction, roughly 4.45 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead, you’re standing at an elevation of 12,324 feet.
To continue on to Hallett Peak from this junction, turn south and follow the unnamed path. This faint trail is quite rocky, and can be hard to pick-up in some places, but cairns will help guide the way. If in doubt at any time, simply head towards the peak. After about a quarter-of-a-mile the trail passes the Tyndall Glacier, which sits in the cirque between Flattop and Hallett Peak. The views down the Tyndall Gorge are pretty amazing. Hopefully it goes without saying, but it would be an extremely bad idea to step foot anywhere near the glacier.
Once past the glacier the trail begins to climb again, and becomes progressively steeper. As you climb higher the trail also becomes more difficult to read. There are cairns in many places, and sometimes the trail is pretty obvious, but route finding can still be fairly difficult. However, it’s obvious where you’re headed, so if in any doubt simply take the most obvious line to the top. On the way back down the trail is much easier to follow.
At just under 5.2 miles hikers will finally reach the summit of 12,718-foot Hallett Peak. As you might expect the views in all directions are simply outstanding. Towards the south is 12,486-foot Otis Peak and 13,153-foot Taylor Peak. Turn southeast and 14,259-foot Longs Peak will dominate the view. Looking towards the north is Flattop Mountain, 12,129-foot Notchtop Mountain, and the Mummy Range. 12,363-foot Ptarmigan Point and the Never Summer Range are located towards the northwest, and looking towards the southwest you’ll be able to see Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake down in the valley below.
Hallett Peak is named for William Hallett, a prominent cattle rancher and mining engineer who climbed many peaks in this area in the late 1800s. Hallett was instrumental in helping to establish the Rocky Mountain Club in 1896, the first mountaineering organization in Colorado.
The Arapaho Indians called Hallett Peak banah ah netaieux, which means Thunder Peak, a reference to the storms that frequent the mountain. If it looks like bad weather is moving in during your hike, don’t attempt to summit the mountain, as it will take at least an hour or two to get out of any immediate danger the storm could bring.
Hikers should always be aware of lightning risk while hiking in the Rocky Mountains, especially at higher elevations. As a general rule of thumb you should plan to be off the summit before noon in order to avoid the notorious afternoon thunderstorms that frequent the mountains during the summer months. Hikers should also be prepared for extreme sun exposure, wind, cool temperatures, and rapidly changing weather conditions while on the trail. Make sure you have the proper gear with you, and know what safety precautions you need to consider beforehand.