This trail winds from the valley floor around Estes Park, past waterfalls and through splendid meadows to a historic shelter high on 14,255-foot Longs Peak. The hike is unremarkable at first, rising 2.5 miles through forests until it bursts above timberline as the imposing cliff of the peak’s east face comes into view. Don’t worry, you’re going around. The trail gradually ascends Granite Pass. Turn left on the East Longs Peak Trail, climb a gentle ridge and enter the Boulder Field. You’ll pass some tent campsites and a restroom. The famed Keyhole is in the distance. This opening in the rocky wall is when the Longs Peak climb often turns technical, as the trail becomes a series of boulder hops that can hold ice late into the summer. You’ll also find the Agnes Vaille Shelter, a stone building constructed in the 1930s, named for a woman who died on the peak. If your trek is taking you to the summit, continue on past the Keyhole; otherwise return the way you came.
- If planning to attempt the summit of Longs Peak, consider applying for a permit from the park to camp in the Boulder Field. It won’t be the warmest night of your life, but you’ll start much closer to the top.
- If you have the ability to leave a shuttle car at the Sprague Lake or Glacier Gorge trailheads, that makes an excellent shuttle loop through high terrain without the rigors of attempting the peak itself.
- The Longs Peak Campground is first-come, first-served. If it’s full, don’t try to sleep in your car in the parking lot as that could earn you a rude awakening from a park ranger.
Recommended season(s): Summer to early fall.
–R. Scott Rappold