• Michael O'Keeffe

Sunrise on Flattop in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

It has been awhile since I have updated the blog as summer has been very busy. With the season winding down as the snow begins to fall on the high peaks I am hoping to update the blog more frequently with my many adventures from the past several months. For this post we are going way back to July when I did a quick sunrise hike up to Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.

With Rocky Mountain National Park being so close to our new home in Loveland I have been eager to explore this popular park. Summer is quite crowded in Rocky Mountain with such close proximity to Denver and the national park name attracting lots of tourists. A permit system has been implemented to manage crowds and honestly it has been a big help in my opinion although the topic has been a point of controversy for many. Anyway, even with the permit system a way to beat the crowds is to show up early or stay out late. So on this day I arrived at the Bear Lake trailhead around 4:30am hoping to catch sunrise on Flattop Mountain. A steep, but well defined trail takes you to the broad flat summit hence the name Flattop.

The first few miles through the forest went by quickly as it was still dark. As I emerged above the treeline the views opened up. Big time views of Longs Peak and Estes Park commanded the eastern horizon while the slope dramatically dropped down towards Emerald Lake (a very popular dayhike). What surprised me about this hike was the incredible cliff faces with stunning dark rock types. I spent a while on the windy summit exploring the broad open tundra inspired by the dramatic view to the east as the sun rose above the smoky horizon. After being battered by the wind, I had enough and worked my way back down to the trailhead passing lots and lots of hikers who were just beginning their day. A pleasant and exciting sunrise hike to be sure! Here are the photos from my hike to Flattop.


Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Longs Peak in the purple twilight as I emerged from the treeline.

Estes Park in Colorado
Looking east towards Estes Park under smoky dawn light.

Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Stunning cliff faces looking towards Hallett Peak.

Cliff faces in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Impressive geology along the trail.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
High above Emerald Lake.

Estes Park in Colorado
The sun rises over Estes Park.

Sunrise over Estes Park in Colorado
Beautiful sunrise as seen from near the summit of Flattop.

Sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise along the trail.

Sunrise in Colorado
The sun breaks above the smoke layer.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Dramatic peaks above the tundra.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Wildflower filled tundra at first light.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Looking north towards the Fern Creek Valley.

Odessa Lake in Colorado
Odessa Lake far below Flattop.

Sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park
Wildflower filled tundra at sunrise.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Looking back at the dramatic cliff faces above Emerald Lake.

Hiker in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Light hits the cliffs above Emerald Lake with distant Longs Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Impressive spires looked like something out of Mordor.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
More of the impressive spires high above Emerald Lake.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Such a great view!

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
One last look at this all time view before heading back down.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
One last look at the peaks to the north.

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