Ute Trail to Timberline Pass, Ute Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Ute Trail to Timberline Pass - 4.0 miles

Ute Trailhead

The Ute Trail passes through miles of open tundra on Tombstone Ridge

The Ute Trail passes through miles of open tundra on Tombstone Ridge

Round-Trip Length: 4.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 11,465' - 11,495' (11,656' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +30' net elevation gain (+472' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Ute Trail to Timberline Pass - 4.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Ute Trailhead is located 13.4 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Ute Trail loosely follows a route used by indigenous people to connect low meadows in the east with elk and sheep hunting grounds in the alpine tundra.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

While the entire Ute Trail stretches nearly 5 strenuous miles from Beaver Meadows to Trail Ridge Road, visitors can enjoy a considerably milder section - and arguably its most dramatic - by starting in open tundra on Trail Ridge Road and walking 2 miles along Tombstone Ridge to Timberline Pass.

Visitors will enjoy alpine landscapes and good wildlife viewing along these high points of the Ute Trail:

The Ute Trail drops into open tundra with good views across Forest Canyon, carved deep by the Big Thompson River below. Terra Toma Mountain (12,718'), Hayden Spire, Sprague Mountain (12,713'), and Stones Peak (12,922') cap the west canyon wall. Look for elk, sheep, mountain goat, marmot, and ptarmigan along the tundra's broad, open slopes as you progress.

The trail rises back up Tombstone Ridge to a crest (1.5 miles : 11,656'), and glides gently to a sudden drop off at Timberline Pass (2.0 miles : 11,495'). Timberline Pass is not marked, but the steep drop down Windy Gulch indicates this informal turnaround point.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 23.599 W105 41.720 — 0.0 miles : Ute Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road
  • N40 23.325 W105 41.576 — .5 miles : Gentle descent in open tundra
  • N40 23.026 W105 41.256 — 1.0 miles : Rolling travel above Forest Canyon
  • N40 22.739 W105 40.825 — 1.5 miles : Crest at Ute Trail's highest point
  • N40 22.485 W105 40.315 — 2.0 miles : Timberline Pass - view down Windy Gulch

Worth Noting

  • The Ute Trailhead is located on Trail Ridge Road, which is closed seasonally from November - May, or as weather and snow conditions dictate. Exact dates vary from year to year. Contact the Park for the latest road and trail conditions before setting out.

  • Binoculars are highly recommended for alpine wildlife viewing on this trail. Enjoy wildlife from a safe, respectful distance.

  • This 4 mile roundtrip section of the Ute Trail runs entirely above treeline. Anticipate strong sun, wind, cool temperatures, and rapidly changing weather conditions throughout the day. Carry versatile layers, sun protection, and ample water. Get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.

  • The entire Ute Trail is approximately 4.85 miles long. From Timberline Pass, the trail continues on steep and rugged terrain down Windy Gulch to Ute Meadows (3.6 miles), and onto to its connection with the Beaver Mountain Trail (4.85 miles). The Beaver Mountain Trail continues 1.65 miles to the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead. The entire distance from Trail Ridge Road to Upper Beaver Meadows is 6.5 miles.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • A permit is required for all backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Permits may be obtained from the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center Backcountry Office, or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at Grand Lake. Day-of-trip permits may be obtained in-person, year round.

  • Reservations may be secured by mail or in person anytime after March 1 for a permit to be used in that calendar year. Phone reservations are accepted from March 1 - May 15, and anytime after October 1 for a permit in that calendar year.

  • Ute Meadow Backcountry Campsite - designated llama site (9,423')

  • The Ute Meadow Backcountry Campsite is located 2.9 miles from the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead, or 3.6 miles from the Ute Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road. There is one site available, located in a sandy area on the lower edge of Ute Meadows in a thin stand of white pine, fir, and spruce. Water is available from a small brook off trail in the center of the meadow.

  • Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the silver metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red arrowheads on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail.

Rules and Regulations

  • There is a $20 fee per vehicle to enter Rocky Mountain National Park.

  • Dogs are not allowed on backcountry trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Ute Trailhead is located 13.4 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance on Trail Ridge Road. The trailhead is minimally marked, and parking is limited to the south side of the road.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517-8397

Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Hiked out to Timberline Pass on Tuesday morning - a relatively easy jaunt, though I can imagine that the entire hike down to Upper Beaver Meadows TH would be quite a knee-breaker. Took us about 2 hours to Timberline Pass at a leisurely pace; we stopped a couple times for some marmot sightings! Important to try to get to the trailhead at Tombstone Ridge early, for two reasons: (1) this is a prime spot for afternoon thunderstorms - would not want to be stuck up here if it hailed; and (2) parking is sparse (only room for about 6-7 cars at the pullout)."
awojtanik  -  Boston, MA  -  Date Posted: July 12, 2013


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