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Upper Ute Trail Out-and-Back

Intermediate
 4.7 (19) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

An out-and-back along a relatively flat spectacular alpine meadow.


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Map Key

3.9

Miles

6.3

KM

Loop

11,630' 3,545 m

High

10,913' 3,326 m

Low

884' 270 m

Up

891' 271 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

110%

Max Grade (48°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Because this is an out-and-back, turn around whenever the kids get tired! The scenery is largely similar for the duration, so you won't miss much by heading back early.

Alpine ecosystems are extremely fragile. Please use extra consideration and stick to the trail.

Overview

This high alpine hike is characterized by unobstructed panoramic views throughout. On a clear day, countless towering peaks will be visible in every direction.

Need to Know

Take a thorough look at the weather report for the day before setting out.

This hike is extremely exposed and therefore can lead to multiple issues. In the summer months, afternoon thunderstorms are frequent occurrences. With few to no options for cover, lightning is a real threat up here. Large temperature swings and strong winds should also be on your radar if embarking on this portion of Ute Trail.

Assuming the weather is perfect on the day of your hike, make sure to cover up and use proper sun protection as the sun's rays are extremely strong at this altitude.

Description

From the Ute Crossing TH, start hiking up Ute Trail. The trail is steep initially as you climb about 600 vertical feet to gain the ridge. Once on the ridge, the trail flattens out and stays that way for about 0.75 miles. Given this hike's elevation, you'll be above treeline whilst on the ridge, so plan on having breathtaking views on tap throughout.

To the north, views of the Fall River Valley and Bighorn Mountain abound. To the south, you'll be looking down into the Big Thompson River Gorge framed by Stones Peak. At around the one-mile mark, the trail will begin trending upward slightly before descending the saddle to the south of Tombstone Ridge. Keep an eye out for a large, lichen covered boulder next to the trail as you approach the saddle. This serves as the turn-around spot for the hike given that Ute Trail begins a three mile, 2,700' descent at this point.

Flora & Fauna

The Alpine Ecosystem starting at elevations from 11,000 to 11,500 feet, depending on exposure, is an area of extremes. Strong, frequent winds and cold temperatures help limit what plants can grow there. Most alpine plants are perennials. Many plants are dwarfed, but their few blossoms may be full-sized. Cushion plants, looking like ground-hugging clumps of moss, escape the strong winds blowing a few inches above them. Cushion plants may also have long taproots extending deep into the rocky soil. Many flowering plants of the tundra have dense hairs on stems and leaves to provide wind protection or red-colored pigments capable of converting the sun's light rays into heat. Some plants take two or more years to form flower buds, which survive the winter below the surface and then open and produce fruit with seeds in the few weeks of summer.

Contacts

Shared By:

Brian Smith

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 19 votes

#465

Overall
  4.7 from 19 votes
5 Star
74%
4 Star
21%
3 Star
5%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#95

in Colorado

#465

Overall
47 Views Last Month
4,072 Since Jan 30, 2015
Intermediate

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88%
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Photos

Ute Trail on Trail Ridge, Rocky Mountain NP CO
Jan 15, 2015 near Estes Park, CO
Cairn along Ute Trail, Trail Ridge
Jan 15, 2015 near Estes Park, CO
Lichen on granite boulder
Jan 15, 2015 near Estes Park, CO
Ute Trail and cairn, Trail Ridge
Jan 15, 2015 near Estes Park, CO

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Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 71 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Aug 19, 2020
Bob Monahan
Hike goes from Alpine visitor station to Milner Pass. Saw deer on the trail marmot Nice views and spectacular alpine sub alpine ecosystems. — 4h 30m
Jul 1, 2020
子潇 陆
2h 40m
Jun 20, 2019
Lonnie Kragel
Very windy today. Didn't do the whole trail. — 10h 28m
Sep 23, 2018
Brooks Tellekamp
3.9mi
Sep 17, 2018
Jillian Tesny
Very windy! Would recommend wearing something with a hood. Awesome views and not crowded. Saw lots of marmots too! 3mi
Sep 15, 2018
Tess O'Connor
So windy at 7:00am we couldn’t open the car doors safely with two hands. Had to come back at 9:00am. So windy still but awesome. 4mi
Sep 2, 2018
Caitlin Charlton
Aug 31, 2018
Alexander Knox
3mi