The steep and winding trail begins in the forests of Endo Valley and rises above tree line to the alpine heights of 13,530-foot Hagues Peak, the highest in the Mummy Range.
The arduous, nine-mile trail to Hagues Peak begins on the east side of the alluvial fan of rocks in Endo Valley of Rocky Mountain National Park, ten miles west of Estes Park, Colorado. There’s no other way to get there but by private car, with plenty of parking for thirty or so automobiles. The starting point of the Lawn Lake Trail, which continues beyond Lawn Lake up to Hagues Peak, is 8,540 feet above sea level. Hikers should sign the trail register just above the parking area upon arrival. The best times to climb Hagues Peak are from late June through mid-September. Be aware of sudden thunder storms, however, that can develop during summer afternoons. Therefore, climbers should reach the summit no later than noon.
The worst time to climb Hagues Peak are from mid-September through mid-June, when the peak remains blanketed snow from frigid temperatures. There are no man-made hazards on this nine-mile trail, but hikers should be careful of loose scree at the base of the summit. Once hikers are under way, they will ascend a steep trail (above the alluvial fan) that switches back and forth through a mixed forest of sweet-smelling ponderosa pines, lodgepole pines and aspen trees.
The trail follows the steep valley of the Roaring Fork River, which is aptly named. On July 15, 1982 before dawn a man-made dam, which made Lawn Lake twice its original size, burst after days of torrential rains. A thirty-foot wall of water came roaring down the canyon carrying box-car sized boulders with it and formed the great alluvial fan in Endo Valley below. Miraculously, only three people were killed during this disaster. As hikers gain elevation, the forest slowly becomes dominated by lodgepole pines, where Canada jays and Clark’s Nutcrackers abound. The trail continues its climb through angular lodgepole pines all the way up to Hudsonian forests of Engleman spruce and subalpine fir trees.
The closer hikers get to Lawn Lake, the more they will see the great Mummy Range, which consists of nine peaks, most of them above 13,000 feet. Rising from the eastern shoreline of the lake is the heavily glaciated Mummy Mountain of 13,412 feet. To the northwest looms Mount Fairchild at 13,502 feet, and to the north Hagues Peak, the highest of the nine Mummies at 13,560 feet. Take a well-deserved rest here and drink some fresh spring water along the side of the ranger patrol cabin. Hikers may even spot bighorn sheep.
From here it’s easy to find the trail at the northern end of the lake to continue to Hagues Peak. Within fifteen minutes, hikers will be above the tree line and rewarded with views of the entire Mummy Range. The trail is steep and winding, but the saddle above will prove worthwhile with its views straight down to Crystal Lake and Lawn Lake. The peaceful area is a great place to rest and eat some energy snacks. While taking in the panorama, be on the lookout for delicate, blue-colored alpine forget-me-not flowers. You may hear the high-pitched squeaks of alpine marmots and pikas scampering over rocks as well.
The trail proceeds over smaller rocks that slant upward to the final cliffs of Hagues Peak. From these cliffs, the hikers can see across the valleys southward to the highest peak in the national park: Longs Peak. It’s fun to work your way up the cliffs, as it’s so different from the steady pace along the trail below. Significant elevation is gained with each handhold, and within a half hour hikers will stand at the top of Hagues Peak and be presented with 360 degrees of incredible views. Summit vistas range as far as the eastern prairies, from Longs Peak to the Never Summers to Rowe Glacier and distant Laramie, Wyoming.
Rowe Glacier is only 400 feet below Hagues Peak and occupies over a quarter of a mile of rugged terrain from Rowe Lake. With Binoculars, hikers can see the University of Wyoming campus and the city streets. The hike takes a full day (10 to 12 hours round trip), with a vertical gain of 5,020 feet. It’s wise to bring water, as there aren’t any sources along the trail except for Lawn Lake. There aren’t any restrooms either. Trail maps are available at the national park’s visitor center or from the USGS website, Estes Park Quad.
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When are you and Christina going to do this climb?