My first hike on this West Coast trip was Mt. Ida in Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike is mostly above tree line. While it’s a short hike (and probably considered one of the easier peaks to tackle in RMNP), this 9.6 Miles is not for the faint of heart.
Before any major hike, I usually get nervous about both my skills and potential misadventures that can come my way. Fortunately, the 27 hour drive from DC left me so exhausted that I crashed immediately after getting to the hotel. In the morning, the adrenaline got me through the nerves.
Although I’m not in peak physical condition, I was able to tackle this hike (albeit with a lot of huffing and puffing). It was a sunny day with absolutely clear views all around. However, the gusty, cold winds were quite formidable and felt like it threatened to push me off the narrow trail. Although I didn’t bring my winter gear with me, I had enough layers including my windbreaker to keep me warm all the way to the summit!
Compounding the cold winds was the altitude. The first mile and half of this hike is a steep incline through forest areas. The next three miles are above tree line with gradual intermittent climbs but it is all above 10,000 feet. I’ve rarely been impacted by altitude but on this hike I was definitely hit by it’s full force. Moving slow and steady and drinking plenty of water helped me from having to turn around.
The trail is not marked after the first mile and a half but it’s easy to follow until you get to the rick outcroppings. While there are carins to mark your way, it’s hard to know it’s there if you’re not looking for them. Although the guide I used warned me of this mistake, I followed the harder boulder hopping to the left instead of following the smoother path to the right. The good news – it’s easy to find your way back to the trail and/or get to the summit!
A quick caution – this trail has uphills on your way up to and back from the summit! It took me nearly eight hours to complete this hike. Despite the wind and altitude, the amazing views are so breathtaking that they alone are motivation enough to make your way up.
From the summit, I had expansive views of the Rocky Mountain National Park wilderness including several glacial lakes that looked an aqua green.
After our long hike, we set up camp in the — campground, the only one on the Grand Lake side of the park. We were lucky to see elk and a moose gingerly wandered through our camp in the morning! Next, we took a drive through the park on the — road. The drive alone is an experience as you climb to well over 14,000 feet and are treated to breathtaking alpine views.
This was a great park to start my five week adventure!