Upper Beaver Meadows Loop
|Trail Features:||Scenic Views, Wildlife, Fall Aspens|
|Trail Location:||Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead|
|Roundtrip Length:||5.0 Miles|
|Trailhead Elevation:||8440 Feet|
|Total Elevation Gain:||935 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||374 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||9216 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||6.87 (moderate)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||40.37288|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-105.61409|
The Upper Beaver Meadows Loop hike begins from the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead, located just north of the Moraine Park area. To reach the trailhead from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, drive 0.7 miles to the turnoff for Upper Beaver Meadows. After turning left onto the rough paved road, drive another 1.4 miles to the end of the road.
Although you can hike this loop in either direction, the most popular route travels in a clockwise direction, mainly due to the final portion of the hike ending roughly a tenth-of-a-mile below the parking lot.
Just beyond the trailhead hikers will likely notice an unmarked social trail spurring off to the right. You should ignore this and continue for a few more yards to reach a split in the trail. This junction marks the beginning of a "loop within a loop". Although both options are roughly equal in length, we chose to take the left fork, towards Moraine Park, so that we could enjoy the views of Longs Peak and the mountains along the Continental Divide. The views along this short section of open terrain are quite outstanding.
During our early-September hike we saw a small herd of elk scurrying along the edges of the meadow as we proceeded along this stretch. Much of the loop traverses through the upper limits of the montane ecosystem, which is characterized by large meadow valleys and slopes that support a wide range of plant and animal life. In Rocky Mountain National Park this ecosystem occurs at elevations between 5600 and 9500 feet.
After a quarter-mile the trail enters a ponderosa pine forest, and shortly thereafter you'll reach another trail junction. You should continue towards the right here. A short distance later, at just over one-third of a mile from the trailhead, you'll arrive at another junction. You should turn right here as well and continue towards Trail Ridge Road, as indicated by the sign.
At six-tenths of a mile hikers will reach the end of the "loop within a loop" portion of the hike. To continue on the loop hike you should turn left at this junction and head towards Ute Meadow and Trail Ridge Road.
At almost 1.6 miles you may notice a short side trail branching off to the left. After walking maybe 50 feet or so along this social path you'll be rewarded with a magnificent view of Moraine Park, making this a great spot for an extended break.
A short distance beyond the social trail hikers will reach the Ute Trail-Beaver Mountain Trail junction. Taking a left at this junction will lead you up to Ute Meadows. If you have the time and energy you could take the side trip up to a rock outcropping that offers great views of Longs Peak and the surrounding mountains. It also provides a birds-eye view of some of the damage inflicted by the Fern Lake Fire in 2012. This side trip to the outcropping is a little more than a half-mile from the junction. To continue on the loop hike you should make a right turn onto the Beaver Mountain Trail.
Over the course of the next two-tenths of a mile the trail climbs steeply to reach the highest point on the hike. At roughly 2.25 miles the trail finally emerges from the canopy of the forest again. During the next half-mile you'll enjoy fantastic views of Moraine Park, Longs Peak and the surrounding mountains. Soon the route begins passing through stands of aspen groves and lodgepole pine forests. As you proceed down the mountain you'll pass through an area where there are literally thousands of dead trees lying on the ground, presumably from the pine beetle infestation. Hikers should use caution hiking through this area during high winds.
At roughly 3.25 miles you'll begin skirting along the edges of a small meadow dotted with several aspens. Soon the trail crosses over Beaver Brook and shortly thereafter you'll reach an unmarked trail junction. The trail to the right leads directly back to the trailhead, and eventually connects with the unmarked side trail located near the trailhead, as mentioned above. To continue on the loop you should proceed towards the left.
Shortly after passing the unmarked junction the trail begins another short climb to the top of a ridgeline. On the other side, as the trail drops down from the ridge, you'll enjoy outstanding views of Longs Peak off to your right, while 9937-foot Deer Mountain will dominate the view almost straight ahead.
At 4.4 miles hikers will reach the junction with the trail that connects with Deer Ridge. Although it would add more than 1.5 miles to your overall hike, the Deer Mountain Trailhead could be used as a starting point for this loop. To continue on towards the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead you should turn right at this junction.
The last leg of the hike travels through broad open meadows with expansive views of Longs Peak and the mountains along the Continental Divide. At roughly 4.9 miles you'll finally reach the road. Simply turn right and walk the remaining one-tenth of a mile back to the parking area.