Hiked to Hallett Peak on June 12th, 2020, from Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our second weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park after its reopening is now in the books; our first day brought us to Hallett Peak (12,599 ft) via Flattop Mountain (12,327 ft). It was an early morning for us with a departure from Denver at 3AM. Currently, Rocky Mountain National Park is on a timed entry system for any visitor between 6AM and 5PM. If you arrive at the park before 6AM (which we did), then you are not required to reserve tickets for your visit.
Full 4K Video of our Hike to Hallett Peak
Bear Lake Trailhead
After making sure we had all our gear, we walked a quarter mile counter-clockwise around Bear Lake to capture the sunrise. The lake was empty of people and the sunrise was wonderful. The mosquitoes, however, were not! Make sure to pack bug spray for this hike!
Sunrise Photos from Bear Lake Rocky Mountain National Park
I’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park about 40 times. I’ve never once did a sunrise or sunset photoshoot at Bear Lake, despite it’s easy accessibility. I have to recommend the hell out of this alpine lake though for photographic opportunities.
We retraced our steps and circled back to the Flattop Mountain Trailhead. There are several hikes that branch off this trail including Bierstadt Lake (4 miles round trip) and Odessa Lake (8 miles round trip). The trail was well maintained and a joy to walk on. There was lots of melting snow which created charming little streams that intersected the trail.
A quarter mile before reaching the Dream Lake overlook, we started experiencing some snow on the trail. We did get off trail for 5 minutes or so, but otherwise the snow was manageable and no traction was needed.
Dream Lake Overlook
The snow did not last particularly long; after another mile or so it was a thing of the past. A series of switchbacks carried us past the Emerald Lake overlook and up to the Flattop Mountain overlook.
At the top of Flattop Mountain there are nice views of Lake Granby and Grand Lake; two which we had yet to lay eyes on. Thatchtop Mountain and Hallett Peak flanked both sides; a right would lead to the former and a left would lead to our destination.
Hallett Peak Summit in Spring time
At the summit the weather called for wind jackets which we quickly threw on. We shared the summit with about 6 people; most had come from the same direction as us but one pair had climbed up from Tyndall Glacier.
We contemplated taking an alternate route down which includes a traverse across to Otis Peak (12,484 ft), then climbing down Andrews Glacier. We were unsure about the weather and gear necessities, we did not have crampons. We decided to take the safe route back and return via the Flattop Mountain Trail.
After a round trip of 10.5 miles and an elevation gain of 3,281 feet, we were back at Bear Lake. The trip in its entirety took 7 hours.
The KOA of Estes Park was our lodging for the evening but check in was at 2; since we still had over an hour to kill we decided to make a return trip to Sprague Lake. This is a popular weekend destination and today was no different; the parking lot was nearly full with people hiking, relaxing, fishing and picnicking. We took the ¾ mile loop around the lake and enjoyed the sights. It was amazing looking up at Hallett Peak rising over Sprague with the knowledge that just a few hours prior we were on the summit.
The Hallett Peak trip was new terrain for us; we have done our fair share of alpine lakes throughout the park but as for mountains we have only conquered Twin Sisters Peaks. In addition, we have both been to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake several times, but have never had the opportunity to see them from above. It’s interesting how different they look from another perspective.