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National Parks Hall of Fame: Best Cross-Country Adventure

Traverse alongside delicate ecosystem, open tundra and hit nine summits on this "grand slam" of cross-country treks.
november 09 nat park mummy range 445x260Mummy Range, Rocky Mountain, CO (Mike Sakas)

Mummy Range, Rocky Mountain, CO

Longs Peak and other fearsome east-facing crags get all the glory, but it’s the gently sloping western aspect that serves up the park’s best hike. That’s where you can walk for miles across Rocky Mountain’s open tundra, which dominates the park’s terrain above 11,500 feet. It looks like a scruffier–albeit steeper–version of the links at St. Andrews. Park officials discourage hikers from roaming freely across this open terrain–a single misplaced footstep can kill fragile tundra plants–but a sweet route awaits in the deserted Mummy Range north of Trail Ridge Road. By carefully following trails worn by bighorn sheep and peakbaggers, and otherwise sticking to hardened surfaces, experienced backpackers can traverse the Mummy Range on an ambitious two-day route that covers 18 miles and tags nine summits higher than 13,000 feet. It’s called the Grand Slam.

Get a head start, elevation-wise, by launching from 10,640-foot Chapin Creek trailhead. From there, routefinding to Mt. Chapin and then northeast to Ypsilon and the rest of the Mummies is relatively straightforward. The evenly spaced peaks are walk-ups, each involving less than 700 vertical feet of climbing. Superfit hikers can do the whole route in a single day–dubbed the "Mummy Marathon." Saner: Pack light and plan to overnight at the designated campsite at Lawn Lake, leaving the 6.5-mile hike out to Lawn Lake trailhead for day two. (If weather threatens, you can bail out eastward at the saddle between Fairchild Mountain and Hagues Peak to reach Lawn Lake.) Complete the traverse by knocking off 13,560-foot Hagues Peak before finishing with a moderate 2,500-foot descent of Mummy Mountain. Hagues is a favorite summit of Scott Annin, "Hike Master" at the YMCA of the Rockies, who covers 700 miles in the park each summer while leading trips. "You gain a perspective of the park you can’t get from anyplace else," he says.

Essentials
Season Late summer into early fall
Permits Required
Map Trails Illustrated Rocky Mountains National Park ($12, natgeomaps.com)
Contact (970) 586-1242, nps.gov/romo

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