Longs Peak 14,255ft - Keyhole Route
Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Hiked: July 23-24, 2010
- Distance: 14.5 mi (RT)
- Elevation Gain: 5,100ft
- Elevation Min/Max: 9,400 to 14,255ft
14ers.com Keyhole Route Page
Directions: The Longs Peak Trailhead is off of Hwy 7, just south of Estes Park. Follow the signs and you can't miss it.
As always, go to 14ers.com for the best info and all the resources you'll need.
This was my #1 single best hiking experience, ever...
The Keyhole Route is incredibly strenuous, it is a serious, dangerous hike, but it's so exciting that you won't feel like it's a slog. Every Colorado hiker should do this route at least once. It's the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and it is so close to Denver and Boulder. I look at this peak every day when I drive to work. And the hike is a lot of fun.
What we did, and I highly recommend it, is to start the night before and camp at the Goblins Forest campground. It is about 1 mile from the trailhead, so no big deal backpacking to it. Wake up at about 3:00AM and start the hike in the darkness. When you break above treeline, you'll see a line of headlamps leading the way in the distance and if the weather is good, then it is quite an experience hiking here in the dark. We got incredibly lucky and had to hike through a cloud on our way up, the benefit was that once the sun came up, we were looking down on a sea of clouds as far as the eye could see while the weather at the peak was perfect.
You really want to aim at arriving at the Boulder Field when the sun is rising, the alpenglow on the peak and the keyhole will blow your mind. If you're on time, you should hit the peak at about 7:00AM. Traverse the Boulder Field and climb through the keyhole and you'll be in another world. You are looking down on the entire park and looking across to the rest of your route is a holly sh@t moment. Climb down the side of the peak to reach " the Trough." This is worst part of the hike, it's a steep climb over boulders and scree but once you're to the top, your at the infamous "narrows." This is really not as scary as I thought it would be. Yes it's narrow but its flat and easy to cross, if you're scared of heights, you shouldn't be here in the first place.
After the Narrows you arrive at the home stretch, a hand over hand scramble up the cliff to the summit. The summit is huge and there will be lots of people, but you won't care, this is not the tourist crowd at Bear Lake, this is a 14er summit crowd, enjoy them.
When you're ready head back down. Take your time at the top, eat a lot and refresh yourself, you'll need your energy for the way down which in many ways is more difficult. If you played your cards right you should be back to the treeline by around 12:00 noon. Plenty of time to go to Estes or down to Lyons (Oscar Blues) for a celebratory beer.
This is one of the great Colorado adventures and one of the funnest 14ers I've climbed. Every time you go back to Rocky Mountain, you'll feel even more at home, after conquering the park's champion peak.