Fall Classic – Chiefs Head

I had some social functions to attend Saturday, but  I still wanted to get in a good day hike to enjoy the start of the fall weather.  Fall is finally coming to the higher country and it is my favorite time to hike.

The chosen hike on Sunday would be Chiefs Head. 

Chiefs Head is just under 13600′ and is the third highest peak in RMNP. This peak is wonderful. A  trailless 13er that has exquisite views all over the park. The hike itself is a moderate 15 miles or so R/T, but is 5500’+ gain with some class 2 scrambling fun. All in all, a solid day that is challenging.  I have not been to the summit of Chiefs Head since 2003 when a friend  and I did it. (Though an attempt was made in 2008 or 2009 IIRC ; we had to turn around due to weather).

Joining me for the hike would be my buddy Mark.

We started at the trailhead and soon made our way 4 miles or so to Sand Beach Lake.

From this point, with the exception of a short social trail near the lake, we’ be off trail until we made it back to the lake later that day.

We soon popped above treeline and could see Orton Ridge above us.


The tundra fall colors were popping.

The views from the ridge were exquisite.

On top of Mt. Orton itself, we had a wonderful view of Pagoda, Meeker and Longs Peak.

We made our way along the ridge and through the talus to the summit.

The view is among my favorites of any peak.

We could see the Glacier Gorge area below.

And look along the ridge of the mountain itself.

Mark and I did not want to leave. It is an amazing summit on an amazing day.

But we soon had to head down.

Being ridge line junkies, we decided to head back the same way we came along the Orton Ridge.

The bright colors of the fall tundra continued to impress me.

We made it back to the lake and followed the trail again. After most of the day talus hopping and going down steep grades, the trail felt easy!

Even the trail back was nice. The aspens are starting to change with that wonderful yellow color.

We made it back to the car.

A good, hard and wonderful day hike.

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