Sunday, August 29, 2010

Comanche Peak Loop

Enjoyed some high-country running through Roosevelt National Forest, Comanche Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park with recent Fort Collins arrival Dakota Jones yesterday. From the Pingree Park area, our route would take us on an initial five to six mile, ~2,400' climb up to 11,335' Mummy Pass from where we circled Fall Mountain (12,258') and Comanche Peak (12,702') to the south and west through the northern boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, before tagging Comanche and shooting back down on a ridge to the north of the mountain and then circling back around to our starting point.

I borrowed the idea for this route from Rob Erskine, who also has a trip report with GPS data/maps over on his blog. Mike Hinterberg was also up there exploring a few weeks back, so more over at his place.

Checking the map before taking off.

Dakota popping up above timberline on the way to Mummy Pass.

Twin Lake Reservoir and lower elevation peaks to the east from near Mummy Pass.

Mummy Pass.

The tundra running above timberline was supreme and the views of the Mummy Range from the north outstanding. The trail was somewhat intermittent once within RMNP, but still easy to follow.

A peak from the Mummy Pass Trail.

Looking southwest on the Mummy Pass trail from the pass.

The trail dropped back into the trees as we circled southwest around Comanche Peak on the Mirror Lake trail, before shooting back up above 11,000' on a sharp two-mile, 2,000' climb to the peak (12,702') on the Comanche Peak trail. The trail faded to cairns above treeline, and we dropped to a hike as the scattered rocks increased in size and frequency. Comanche Peak itself was relatively unexciting, so we reposed for just a bit after scrambling around on a couple of summit piles that looked to have equal claim to being the high point, and then headed west across the tundra, skirting another peak to the south before hooking in with the cairns that defined the Comanche Peak trail, which, for the most part, was non-existent up high.

Looking southeast from Comanche Peak.

A vertical cliff face on the western edge of Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake with Mummy peaks behind.
Dakota was excited about the climbing opportunities on the slab above Mirror Lake.

Continental Divide out to the west.
Yours truly checking out Mummy Pass and the awesome backside views of some of the Mummy peaks.

Once we were hooked into our ridgeline descent on the Hourglass trail from the Comanche trail, the route became gradually more defined, and once we were on trail proper, our 2,000'+ drop to Comanche Reservoir kicked into high gear through some fairly loose and technical footing. Having been pretty hesitant on all downhill work since crashing hard on Pikes last weekend, I felt like I got some good mojo back on this descent and was able to let it fly a bit in places.

From the reservoir, we made a couple of wrong turns, adding some mileage to the day, but eventually got on the Beaver Creek Trail which took us back to the Emmaline TH and Dakota's truck. We racked over 5k on the morning with just over 24 miles, having a blast in the process.

This is an absolutely awesome loop and just one example of the almost infinite and nearly always incredible lower elevation routes within striking distance of The Fort. It's a bit of a hike to get out to Pingree (an hour from my place), but there are plenty of similar options a little closer in. Why people spend their time getting frustrated with the crowds on the 14,000' peaks around Colorado continues to puzzle me when there are so many other fantastic above-timberline peaks just waiting for exploration. Very, very rarely will you see others on these lower peaks.

Just a few more weeks in the high country before the running is shut down for the season. Get it while you can!


  1. Incredible running scenery Nick... Kick arse at Wasatch!

  2. Glad to hear you took advantage of my trail beta. I hope to get up there again this fall for some more exploration. So is Dakota competing for CSU track/cross-country?

  3. Thanks, Ward!

    Rob - not to my knowledge. Just started his freshman year (!) at CSU.

  4. Good stuff! Agreed, 14k feet, or physically being located *in* RMNP, automatically makes things more popular than surrounding areas. Shhhhhh!