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Longs Peak

Longs Peak

Prominent Peak

Longs Peak is a fan favorite for many reasons. It stands guard over the Estes Valley with clouds playing around the summit throughout the day, changing its personality. Longs is the subject for many photographers and artists. It has also been a bucket-list hike for people since the late 1800s. Think twice before you make it one of yours. Here’s why.

Top Of The Park

At 14,259ft, Longs Peak is the highest peak in Rocky, 15th highest in Colorado, and 17th highest in the lower 48 states (Mt Whitney and Mt Rainer are higher).

The first known summit of the peak was in August of 1868 by surveyors led by USGS director John Wesley Powell. Isabella Bird and Anna Dickenson were the first women to summit in 1873.

From the trailhead to the summit, the elevation gain is about the same as the elevation gain from the Colorado River to the top of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. This is where the similarities end.  The top of Longs is 14,259ft where the air is thin and the storms are mighty.

Not A Place For Crowds

The route through the Keyhole is 15 miles round-trip and 5,370ft of elevation gain. On a good day, in good condition (you and the weather), this climb takes 12-14 hours to complete.

The “trail” has exposed scrambling and narrow sections no wider than a park bench. Summer crowds cause bottlenecks that eat up valuable time, and can cause rocks to come down on other hikers.

Top Of The List

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, whose mission is to preserve and protect the natural integrity of Colorado’s 14,000ft-peaks, or “14ers,” considers Longs Peak to be the most dangerous 14er in the state.

More people have died on Longs since 2000 than any other 14er in Colorado.

Reality Check

The reason for all of these unsettling stats is that more people coming to Estes Park ask about “hiking” Longs Peak. It’s not a hike, it’s a climb.

This is not a simple mountain to summit and most who try are not correctly prepared, nor do they understand the sheer magnitude of this mountain.

Many hikers end up biting off more than they can chew. More than 50% who attempt Longs don’t reach the summit, and reaching the summit is only half way. You then need to climb down over that technical terrain when you are tired, possibly with a storm coming in.

Weather is a major factor. Once you are out of the trees, there are very few places to hide during a severe storm. The high elevation may affect your general condition and judgment.

Don’t have summit fever. Enjoy the experience, but be willing to turn around at any time.

Better Options

We want you to talk about your Estes Park trip for years to come. We also want you to have an enjoyable and safe hike.

For the most incredible view of Longs, hike the 4.2 miles to Chasm Lake. Chasm Lake offers a full view of the east face called “The Diamond.”

Stop by Rocky’s visitor center and talk to a park ranger who can offer a hike that fits your skill level. We have a list of hikes on page 60.

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