DARK MOUNTAIN
  • Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Maps: USGS 1:24K Estes Park / Trails Illustrated 1:59K Rocky Mt National Park #200  Trail Map
  • Access: The most direct access is from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. From the intersection of Hwys 34, 36 and 7 in Estes Park, head north on East Wonderview Ave (Hwy 34) past the Stanley Hotel 0.4 miles, then head north on McGregor Ave (Devils Gulch Rd) 1.6 miles and watch for a brown sign for the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. Turn north on the signed road and follow it several hundred yards to the parking lot. 
  • Trailhead: Lumpy Ridge TH UTM NAD83 456446e 4471897n elev 7,866'
  • Trail: Follow the Black Canyon Trail west to the junction with the Cow Creek Trail, then head northwest, off-trail to the summit. Thick timber hides the summit from view until you're on it. Net elevation gain to summit is 2,993'
  • Fees: No fee to park at the Lumpy Ridge TH
  • Weather:  Local Forecast
  • Dogs: Disallowed on NPS trails


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Sept 14, 2015

Larry and I left Cheyenne before sunrise and, after a brief coffee stop at the Safeway in Estes Park, neared the Cow Creek trailhead only to see a sign at the turnoff indicating the lot was full. Anticipating this possibility, we quickly shifted to plan B, parked at the nearby Lumpy Ridge TH, and by 8:30 we were on the Black Canyon Trail under a hazy sky. The air was calm and surprisingly warm, hovering in the mid 60ís. 

We followed the trail through pine forest, past a NPS residence, and then into an open meadow that crossed private property for a significant distance before returning to the park land and Ponderosa forest. We stayed on the main trail past several spur trails that lead up to popular climbing spots on Lumpy Ridge, and continued northwest towards Lawn Lake. 

When we reached the junction with the Cow Creek trail, we jogged east a bit, perhaps 200m east on the Cow Creek Trail, before leaving the trail and heading northwest towards the summit of Dark Mt. Our original plan had been to hike from Cow Creek TH to Bridal Veil Falls, then go off-trail to the southwest towards the summit, but this alternate route looked passable also, and turned out to be so. 

We definitely slowed down heading up the steep, trail-less route to the summit. Thick pine duff and heavy timber slowed the ascent, but I was glad that there wasnít too much downed beetle-killed timber on the ground to slow things down. 

Near the summit, the going got very steep, and we were forced to boulder our way up the southwest face of the summit. Not difficult, but it did require more than simply walking up. By 12:30 we were on the summit, a rough and narrow fin of bald rock from which views in all directions were unencumbered. We found the summit log and noted our ascent, and I read through the old entries that go back to the mid-90ís. We ate lunch in the calm, 70-degree air, and enjoyed the view, despite the thick haze that shrouded the horizon, courtesy of a SW wind that was blowing up smoke from fires in Arizona. 

At 1:30, we began heading down, following our route closely with GPS to avoid getting cliffed out, and reached the trail near the junction south of the peak around 2:00. From there, we simply followed the trail back to the parking area, reaching it at 4:00. 

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Starting out on the trail on a hazy morning

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Heavy widlfire smoke/haze to the south

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Thick lodgepole pine forest on the crosscountry 
route up the south flank of Dark Mt

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Larry enjoys the rugged hike

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Scrambling up the last few feet to the summit

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Taking in the view from the summit

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Looking south from Dark Mt to McGregor Mt
and Longs Peak on the horizon

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Looking west from Dark Mt to the Mummy Range

Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado
Dark Mountain, Rocky Mt National Park, Colorado

Gravity helps out on the way down

 


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