Rocky Mountain National Park: Mount Alice via Hourglass Ridge

Feel like you've notched a first ascent.
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Feel like you've notched a first ascent.

Fly under the radar as the vacationing crowds from points east march antlike up Longs Peak, Alice’s superstar neighbor a few miles to the north. The 20.4-mile route to this 13,310-foot summit is a true locals only find, with a healthy dose of spicy scrambling to make it even more adventurous.

You’ll hike past five pristine high-altitude lakes over krummholz and boulders as the terrain changes from subalpine forest to tundra, eventually reaching an easy but exposed ridge to the summit. Choose your own line and make the final scramble to the summit as challenging as you want, and take in views of the steep, rocky walls of Longs Peak and Chiefs Head to the north and Isolation Peak to the south.

Do it From the Wild Basin trailhead, hike the Wild Basin Trail, passing three waterfalls (Copeland, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel) in the first three miles. Camp at the Siskin or North St. Vrain campsites at 9,400 feet, and head out early the next morning for a big summit day—by making it an overnight, you’ll see the alpenglow on Mt. Alice’s east face without the alpine start.

Follow the trail to Lion Lake No. 1, then take a path past Lion Lake No. 2, and up the ridge southwest of Snowbank Lake to the saddle between Mt. Alice and Chiefs Head Peak, keeping an eye out for bighorn sheep and marmots. Head south from the saddle over Hourglass Ridge and scramble up talus to the summit. Take the easier descent off the summit to Boulder-Grand Pass, down to Thunder Lake, and back to your campsite.

GUIDEBOOK: Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide, by Lisa Foster ($28, westcliffepublishers. com)

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 32.8

Waypoints

ALC001

Location: 40.203435, -105.542383

From the Wild Basin trailhead, hike the Wild Basin Trail, passing three waterfalls (Copeland, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel) in the first three miles.

ALC002

Location: 40.202183, -105.555674

Continue straight at 4-way junction.

ALC003

Location: 40.199589, -105.570363

Continue straight at 4-way junction.

ALC004

Location: 40.195534, -105.590401

Keep straight at 3-way junction. Cross wooden bridge over creek. Calypso Cascades tumble down rocky, forested slopes on the left.

ALC005

Location: 40.195534, -105.590965

Cross a bridge, then continue west.

ALC006

Location: 40.196732, -105.593483

Trail passes through an open glade clearing with views of ridgeline and the peaks to the north.

ALC007

Location: 40.1978, -105.595665

Pass a small overlook with views down the basin. From here, the trail ascends a series of switchbacks on the approach to the Falls.

ALC008

Location: 40.19865, -105.599716

Ouzel Falls: For closer views, turn left off trail to bottom of the falls.

ALC009

Location: 40.201583, -105.603478

Bear right at Y-junction. Camp at the Siskin or North St. Vrain campsites at 9,400 feet,
and head out early the next morning for a big summit day. By making it an overnight,
you'll see the alpenglow on Mt. Alice’s east face without the alpine start.

ALC010

Location: 40.20508, -105.606799

Turn left at T-junction onto Thunder Lake Trail.

ALC011

Location: 40.212804, -105.624872

Bear right at Y-junction onto Lion Lake Trail.

ALC012

Location: 40.232072, -105.63786

Follow the trail to Lion Lake No. 1, then take a path past Lion Lake No. 2.

ALC013

Location: 40.240128, -105.651269

Climb the ridge southwest of Snowbank Lake to the saddle between Mt. Alice and Chiefs Head Peak, keeping an eye out for bighorn sheep and marmots.

ALC014

Location: 40.245484, -105.660324

Head south from the saddle over
Hourglass Ridge and scramble up talus to the summit.

ALC015

Location: 40.239276, -105.663779

Mt. Alice (13,310 ft.): You'll spot views of the steep, rocky walls of Longs Peak and Chiefs Head to the north and Isolation Peak to the south. Next: Take the easier descent off the summit to Boulder-Grand Pass, down to Thunder Lake, and back to your campsite.