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Photo Credit: © 2019 James Frank


Climbing Longs Peak

Longs Peak is one of Colorado’s most famous “fourteeners” – peaks that top out at over 14,000 feet in elevation.  It’s a climb that many people have aspired to over the years.   Longs Peak is synonymous with climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This challenging route requires stamina because it has an elevation gain of 4,850 feet, and is eight miles one way. Time for the round trip averages 10-15 hours. It was the choice of celebrated British adventuress Isabella Bird in 1873.  Today the way to scramble through the boulder field is marked with yellow and red bullseyes.

At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak towers above all other summits in the Park. It’s more than just a hike, though. It’s a big mountain experience that shouldn’t be underestimated.  Safety and preparation are essential.

Acclimate to the altitude before starting out. In the summertime – the season when thousands hike or climb to Longs’ summit – early mornings break calm, clear and blue. Clouds build in the afternoon sky, often exploding in storms of brief, heavy rain, thunder and dangerous lightning. Begin the trek early, by 3 am, to be off the summit by 10am and back in the car before the weather turns.

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Estes Park Rock Climbing

Guided trips, climbing gym, and gear rentals

Authorized Mountain Guides

Six companies chosen by the NPS to offer their climbing services in Rocky Mountain National Park are:

  • American Alpine Institute from Bellingham, Washington : In RMNP, American Alpine Institute will be running Long’s Peak ascents, guided rock climbs and offering mountaineering courses.
  • Colorado Mountain School from Estes Park, Colorado : In the winter, Colorado Mountain School offers ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and avalanche training.  They also offer rock climbing, mountaineering, and guide training.  Click here for more information on their offerings within Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides from Boulder, Colorado : Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides will be offering the following in RMNP –  Winter activities, Hiking, Backpacking, Photography Tours, Road Bicycling, Fly Fishing, Peak Ascents (including Longs Peak), and Sightseeing.
  • Kent Mountain Adventure Center from Estes Park, Colorado : Currently in the winter KMAC offers snowshoeing and skiing tours.  They also offer rock climbing, hiking and trek tours, as well as cliff camping experiences.  With their new authorization to work in Rocky Mountain National Park, KMAC is expanding their offering in RMNP to include alpine rock and ice climbing, avalanche education, ski mountaineering, and more.
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Guides from Jackson, Wyoming : Jackson Hole Mountain Guides offers the following types of classes:  Avalanche education, ice climbing, rock climbing, kids and teens classes and camps, and backcountry skiing and mountaineering.
  • San Juan Mountain Guides from Ouray, Colorado : San Juan Mountain Guides offers:  Ski mountaineering, backcountry skiing, avalanche education, ice climbing, alpine climbing, rock climbing, trekking, expeditions and canyoneering.

The Thumb – Open Space Town of Estes Park

This thumb shaped rock outcrop opened to the public on July 1, 2022, under the management of the Town of Estes Park.

It was reportedly first climbed by the famous climber Tom Hornbein in the 1940’s.  Local professional climber Tommy Caldwell trained here.

The Thumb boasts almost 50 routes ranging in difficulty from 5.0 to 5.13.  There is some great bouldering too.  Dogs are allowed on leash on the trails.  No overnight camping allowed.

To get to the trailhead, turn off of CO 7 and head one mile west on Peak View Drive.  Park in the gravel parking area on the north side in front of a green pump house.  There is room for about 9 vehicles.

For further information on rules of use, click here.