Longs Peak is one of the most famous high peaks in the Colorado rockies. At 14,259 feet it is one of the most prominent peaks in Colorado. It is also the northernmost 14er and located within the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness. The mountain is named after Major Stephen Long, who in June 1820, led an expedition looking for Pikes Peak, and ended up naming Longs without even climbing it.
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This hike has various ascent options, but 1 in particular is the most common route (we will highlight this route below, and mention the rest).
Height: 14,259 feet (4,346 meters)
Distance: 15 miles round trip (24.14 km)
Elevation Gain: 5,370 Feet (1636.8 meters)
Hike Class: Class 3 route after keyhole
Trailhead Elevation: 9,380 feet
There are two main “hiking” trails to Longs peak that feature Class 1 and 2 hiking up until the Keyhole, where the hike is considered class 3. Below, each is shown. The East Longs Peak Trail is by far the more popular route. This hike is attempted an estimated 20,000 times per year by hikers with a less than 50% completion rate. Though this hike is difficult, and especially dangerous during poor weather, it is stunning, and doable for most intermediate to experienced hikers. Caution and good judgement is highly recommended. Most hikers are told to start by 6 a.m. at the latest.
East Longs Peak Trail: 15 miles Round Trip | 5,370 Feet Elevation Gain
This trail begins at 9,380 feet on Longs Peak road (directions below). Hikers will begin hiking through some pretty forest gaining elevation at a steady pace. Hikers will break through tree line 2.5 miles into the hike. Here hikers will get outstanding views eastward to the flatlands, and towards Longs Peak.
Once breaking tree line, the views simply remain outstanding throughout this hike. 3.2 miles in, hikers reach the junction for Chasm lake (a must see). There is a privy at this intersection. Hikers will bear right to continue upwards and around Mount Lady Washington. Once ascending above the a ridge, the views into Rocky Mountain National Park are incredible.
Just about 5 miles in, hikers will reach the boulder field. Some consider Boulder Field to be the most difficult part of the hike to Longs Peak (people that hate boulder hopping). There are big boulders and the hikers have to scramble over them before they reach the keyhole 6 miles into the hike. The boulder field has campsites (permit needed) and bathrooms for hikers. The views from the boulders are of course outstanding. Hikers will often stop at the Keyhole due to the trail becoming class 3 and significantly more dangerous beyond it.
Beyond the Keyhole, hikers will experience large cliffs, slippery rock, loose rock, steep inclines, the chance for falling rock, but some of the most gorgeous views. Extreme caution must be taken here as wind, ice, falling rock, or rain significantly amplify the dangers of this hike. Beyond the keyhole are four well known sections to the summit, The Ledges, The trough, The Narrows, and The Homestretch.
Pictures of this trail can be found below.
It is advisable to start the hiking first thing in the morning before the dawn. This increases the chances to return before the afternoon as this time is known for frequent thunderstorms and lightning.
North Longs Peak Trail 9.5 miles each way | 5,200 Feet Elevation Gain
This hike begins at the Glacier Gorge parking area in Rocky Mountain National Park off of Bear Lake road (directions below). This is a gorgeous option to head up, and far less traveled after the first couple of miles. Once hikers reach Granite Pass, they meet up with the East Longs Peak trail and are only 1.8 miles from the keyhole.
If you are looking for a two-day hike, you can camp in the Boulder Fields. Permits to camp can be very hard to come by, but can be found here.
Many choose to stay at Longs Peak Campground to get started early in the morning. Information can be found here.
1.2 miles into the hike lies the Goblins Forest Backcountry Campground, which contains 6 tent sites. Information can be found here.
Directions and Parking
Directions to Longs Peak Trailhead:
To reach the Longs Peak trailhead, you need to start from the Estes Park and travel 10 miles on CO 7, towards the south. You will see a big National Park sign, take right from here towards the Longs Peak Campground. Climb up and towards the end turn left to reach the parking. You will need to procure a backcountry permit for overnight parking here.
There are no day hike parking fees here. There are bathrooms at the trailhead.
Current Weather Conditions
Keyhole trail has much of its sections covered in the snow until mid-summer. It is best if you start your hike somewhere from late July to early September. It is important to check the daily weather forecast before you start the hike. The weather here changes frequently and you can experience winter-like conditions almost anytime.
Areas of smoke. Partly cloudy, with a low around 39. Southwest wind 6 to 9 mph.
Areas of smoke before 11am, then areas of smoke and a slight chance of rain showers between 11am and noon, then areas of smoke and a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Sunny, with a high near 57. West wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Clear, with a low around 41. Northwest wind 8 to 12 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 56. North northwest wind around 12 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Mostly clear, with a low around 42. South wind 10 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 56. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 44.