Rocky Mountain Double Traverse
One of the coolest things about running or mountaineering is that I am forced to challenge my perceived limitations. I look up at a mountain and think I can’t climb it. But then I do. Those accomplishments stemming from self-doubt are the ones I remember the longest and change me the most.
Several years ago – before all the running and climbing – I attended Lighthouse Writers’ Retreat in Grand Lake (a must-do for all writers!). Our cabin was near a trail called the North Inlet. It climbed into Rocky Mountain National Park, following one of Grand Lake’s tributaries. I was exhausted within a few miles of the hike. When I passed signs listing mileages to the waterfalls and lakes ahead, I was incredulous. Ten miles? To a lake? No way, I’ll never see those, I thought.
Oh, but of course I would. I remember those kinds of thoughts and eventually, I’m compelled to debunk them.
My motivation to return to the North Inlet Trail increased when I discovered how far into Rocky Mountain National Park it extends. It’s so long, in fact, ultra-runners use it and a few others to complete what they call a double traverse of Rocky Mountain National Park. They start at Bear Lake on the east, Estes Park side, ascend the Continental Divide via Flattop Mountain, drop to the West side to Grand Lake, then return. A double crossing of the National Park.
I failed at my first three attempts of the Double Traverse, thanks to floods, early season snow, and torrential rains. This week was the perfect time to try again. The snow was now passable, and with my 100-mile ultra quickly approaching in two months (yikes!), it would be an ideal training run. Off I went, more than a little nervous…
The Double Traverse of Rocky Mountain National Park was technically a training day for my upcoming 100-miler, but really it was a journey in its own right. The route is phenomenal – one of my favorite Colorado loops, probably one I will return to again and again. Hopefully without the lightning next time.
Here are the details:
Bear Lake –Flattop Mountain Trail – Flattop Mountain – Tonahutu Creek Trail – North Inlet Trailhead – North Inlet Trail – Flattop Mountain – Bear Lake
Approximately 36 miles
Want to backpack this loop? Head to rockymountainnationalpark.com