St. Vrain Mountain, St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

St. Vrain Mountain - 8.9 miles

St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead

Long stretches of open tundra on the St Vrain Mountain Trail

Long stretches of open tundra on the St Vrain Mountain Trail

Round-Trip Length: 8.9 miles (includes .75 mile unmaintained segment to summit)
Start-End Elevation: 8,940' - 12,162' (12,162' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +3,222' net elevation gain (+3,370' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

St. Vrain Mountain - 8.9 Miles Round-Trip

St Vrain Mountain (12,162') straddles the border between the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area (south) and Rocky Mountain National Park (north). It stands just east of the Continental Divide with rangy views across the Middle St Vrain Creek drainage and Wild Basin Area of RMNP.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The trail scales a steep gulch to treeline, then moderates across broad tundra saddles and ridges to the base of the summit, where an access route splits off and climbs 800' in just .8 miles to the top:

The trail climbs steadily up the valley's north side through lodgepole and aspen to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary (.7 miles : 9,332'), and a swath of diminutive, sparsely plotted limber pine (1.0 miles : 9,650').

The trail switchbacks hard left (west) one final time (1.5 miles : 10,008') before turning sharply south across the valley with perspective on the route you've taken to this point (1.75 miles : 10,215').

Grades briefly moderate at 2.1 miles (10,405'), then steepen back up the south valley wall. The trail twists steeply through uniformly tall spruce (a counter-intuitive contrast to the forest below), turning sharply south one last time before clearing treeline (2.65 miles : 10,765').

Travel eases along a broad tundra saddle between the triangulated shoulders of Meadow Mountain (11,632'), an unnamed peak, and St Vrain Mountain. It reaches the Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary (3.15 miles : 11,180') and levels for nearly half a mile on a south heading with some of the route's best views.

This airy section overlooks Rocky Mountain's Wild Basin Area, Mount Copeland (13,176'), Ouzel Peak (12, 12,716'), Mahana Peak (12,632'), Longs Peak (14,259') and Mt Meeker (13,911').

Those not aiming for the summit will be content with views along this stretch. The trail exits Rocky Mountain National Park (3.6 miles : 11,335') and threads a few pockets of krummholz to an unmarked turnoff for St Vrain Mountain.

A trio of unassuming cairns are all that initially guide you off the main trail toward the summit; remain vigilant and anticipate this point - more navigational help awaits up-slope.

Leave the main trail (3.65 miles : 11,360') and aim for a band of krummholz approximately 200 yards away. Once through look for cairns and, most importantly, Indian Peaks - Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary posts to your right (north).

St Vrain Mountain's unmaintained summit route hugs the IPW side of the boundary posts, and generally favors the most accommodating terrain. Still, anticipate rugged talus, steep grades, and snowfields year-round on the strenuous .75 mile summit push.

St Vrain Mountain (4.45 miles : 12,162') is rounded with 2 wind shelters and unabated views. Continue along its west ridge to the Elk Tooth formation and base of Ogallala Peak (13,138') on the Divide.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 10.453 W105 32.011 — 0.0 miles : St Vrain Mountain Trailhead
  • N40 10.187 W105 32.636 — .7 miles : Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary
  • N40 10.218 W105 33.509 — 1.75 miles : Cross from north to south side of valley
  • N40 09.974 W105 33.444 — 2.1 miles : Reach south side of valley
  • N40 10.304 W105 33.735 — 2.65 miles : Final switchback south; clear treeline
  • N40 10.203 W105 34.236 — 3.15 miles : RMNP Boundary (entry)
  • N40 09.876 W105 34.395 — 3.6 miles : RMNP Boundary (exit)
  • N40 09.759 W105 34.461 — 3.65 miles : Leave main trail for summit
  • N40 09.762 W105 34.586 — Unmaintained route mark #1
  • N40 09.689 W105 34.824 — Unmaintained route mark #2
  • N40 09.675 W105 34.957 — Unmaintained route mark #3
  • N40 09.672 W105 35.141 — 4.45 miles : St Vrain Mountain summit

Worth Noting

  • This trail passes through upper-montane, subalpine, and alpine-tundra ecosystems. Krummholz - a German word meaning twisted wood - describes the stunted, irregular growth patterns of trees in the ecological transition zone between subalpine forests and alpine tundra. Poor soil, thin air, strong winds, and extreme weather limit and deform growth at these elevations.

  • Much of this hike runs above treeline and is highly exposed. Carry versatile layers, sun protection, and ample water. Get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.

  • Snow can linger on the trail well into summer and arrive again early fall. Call ahead for current trail conditions.

  • Parking is limited at the trailhead.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15.

  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs.

  • Group size is limited to 12 people or people and packstock combined.

  • Campfires are prohibited east side of the Continental Divide, as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.

  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.

  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Backcountry Zones.

  • Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.

  • Packstock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.

Directions to Trailhead

From Boulder, take Highway 36 north until it dead ends. Turn left at the light towards Lyons and continue through the town of Lyons until you reach another dead end.

Turn left onto Highway 7 which will take you through St. Vrain Canyon from Lyons to Allenspark. Upon entering Allenspark, take County Road 107 (ski road) south for about 1.5 miles. At this point, National Forest System Road #116 heads up the hill to your right for about .5 miles to the St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead. Parking is limited at the trailhead.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301
303.541.2500

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information Line:
970.586.1206

Comments

"Postholean traverse shin-thigh deep the whole way up to the saddle (bring slowshoes). Very high winds above treeline. Great views."
Zach  -   -  Date Posted: November 28, 2014
"Very nice with great views into RMNP. A couple nice streams and springs cross the trail which are great to cool off in or dip your hat into. Bring plenty of water and plan to be below tree line by 1:00 pm in the afternoon if there is any sign of weather moving in. There are beautiful wild flowers this time of year too. For those not used to the altitude take plenty of breaks on assent to acclimate. its about 3 1/2 miles to the saddle between Meadow and St. Vrain. "
Chuck Ludwig  -  Longmont, Colorado  -  Date Posted: July 27, 2014
"There are no dogs allowed. St Vrain Mtn is located within Rocky Mtn National Park and the park has a no dog on trails policy. "
Paul  -  CO  -  Date Posted: August 14, 2013

 

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