Monday, July 27, 2015

Alpine Ridge & Tundra Communities Trails (RMNP)

Alpine Ridge Trail:
Trailhead Elevation: 11,794 ft.
Distance: 0.61 mi. (my GPS)
Elevation Gain: 202 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 6:02pm
End Time: 6:14pm

Tundra Communities Trail:
Trailhead Elevation: 12,024 ft.
Distance: 1.15 mi. (my GPS)
Elevation Gain: 225 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 6:34pm
End Time: 6:50pm

Alpine Ridge Trail Report:
During our drive through Rocky Mountain National Park today I decided to try out a few of the shorter trails close to the road. Of course, driving through RMNP is a hiker's heaven and I was salivating at the number of different trails and trailheads we passed as we drove along the highway. Perhaps I need a week here next time we come. Nonetheless, as we made our way up to the Alpine Visitor's Center I had memories of being here a number of years ago and the short hike that was available up the ridge. Best I could recall, last time this was a regular dirt and rock trail. They have since updated it with the hopes of protecting the fragile tundra of this area.

From the end of the parking lot, right where the Trail Ridge Road arrives, the very obvious tourist trail heads up the ridge. Its paved with blacktop at the start and as it ascends turns into a large stone block staircase. There are information signs along the way as well as numerous signs pleading with the tourists to stay on trail and not trample the tundra. Well, this still didn't stop any of the bumbling tourists from hopping into the fragile grass for pictures and other such things. Near the top of the staircase the trail levels out again into blacktop and then ends in a large paved area where folks can take in the views and the pictures. It was a great idea to take the hike for the quick hike up there.  It was windy and a bit chilly but I enjoyed the top and the new views.

Tundra Communities Trail Report:

The Tundra Communities Trail starts in the "Rock Cut" area of US34 as it winds through the park. This is in the high tundra area of the highway, in case the name didn't already give it away. There are toilets and numerous parking spots along the roadside with amazing views, so this trail start is not hard to find.

It immediately works uphill for about a quarter mile and then mostly levels out the rest of the way. As the trail name impllies, it hikes in through a wonderful meadow of tundra. To your right as you hike out there are also interesting rock formations. About 2/3 of the way out and then at the end of the trail the pavement takes you over to the rocks to have a little exploration and to see the views that come about on the other side.

The mushroom rocks
The rocks 2/3 of the way out had a sign labelling them as "Mushroom Rocks" and you could see from looking at them why they were so named. The rocks at the end of the trail actually had a "path" to climb up into them and there was a marker put into the top of one of the rocks with a bit of a map on it. It was quite windy all throughout this area so I didn't linger long and had a brisk jog on the way out back to the car.

Longs Peak off in the distance
Rock outcroppings at the end of the trail
The "climb" up the rocks at the end of the trail
The marker
Time to head back, great views

I have a tracks and waypoints from the hike as well as a few other parts of our drive through Rocky Mountain National Park all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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