Up and Over in RMNP- Euro Style

An overnight hiking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park with a hostel stop in between.

In September 2012, my friends and I did an overnight hike as my bachelor party.

On a classic hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, we went from Bear Lake to Grand Lake and then back via for an about 38 mile lollipop hike.

A wonderful way to see the park. On the trip we stayed at the awesome Shadowcliff Lodge and Hostel in Grand Lake.  A “Euro” style hike we dubbed it. A good, solid day hike with just a small pack along with a hot shower and a town meal at night.

This past year, my friends and I did a variation of this hike. We’d cover ~40 or so miles and 8000’+ gain with a little off-trail travel thrown in for fun.

Autumn in all its glory would be encountered.

The hike would be more difficult in some ways, but perhaps more beautiful for it.

Terry, Mark, Kevin and I started the weekend by securing overnight parking permits from the backcountry office and then spotting one car at the main shuttle stop for Bear Lake. After, we drove to to the Wild Basin trail head.

We parked, saddled up and off we went into to the fall woods.

Up the trail we went passing by the day use crowds.

Soon Thunder Lake was reached.  It look a bit different from earlier this year.

We soon left the lake behind and went up to Boulder-Grand Pass following an obvious social trail

The Lakes of Many Winds was reached.

From the lake, we climbed up a steep mixture of talus, scree and sand. The top of Boulder-Grand Pass was reached. We could see where had been…

The top of the pass was Fall-in-the-Rockies-color par excellence.

We soon headed down and could see the string of lakes we would encounter. From Fifth lake below us to Grand Lake itself in the distance.

We bushwhacked down to Fourth Lake and soon followed a social trail to Spirit Lake.

Lake Verna was soon reached and  we enjoyed the quiet natural beach. I was reminded at bit of Maine.

The view from the opposite shore of Lake Verna very much showed it was not Maine however!

We soon started descending lower on established trail. The pine trees were left behind. An aspen forest was soon reached.

Getting towards dusk, we reached the parking lost of the East Inlet trailhead. Another 1.5 miles brought us to the hostel just at dark.

We checked in on the last night of the season for the hostel. A hot shower felt good after ten hours of hiking. We did the ten minute walk to town, had a large meal, called our significant others and were all sacked and out sleeping by 11 PM!

The following morning we headed out on the Tonahutu Trail.

The aptly named Big Meadows was reached.

We continued on the trail with its excellent tread and gradual, mellow grade.

Treeline was reached and bighorn rams were spotted in the distance.

The fog started rolling in at treeline.

The fog only highlighted the beauty of the tundra with its mix of gold, greens and reds.

As we descended to Bear Lake and into the trees, the cold rain came down.

We pressed on.

Just before Bear Lake was reached, the clouds lifted and Longs Peak would be seen with a dusting of snow.

Bear Lake was reached, we boarded the hiker shuttle and relished the heat in the bus.

A post-hike repast was held at Oskar Blues.

As I type this trip report on October 1st, there is three-feet of snow not far from where we hiked. Fall is coming to an end.

We “threaded the needle” in terms of enjoying the fall weather.

Time to head lower. But I am glad I was able to enjoy the Colorado high country at what I consider the best time to hike.

It is a beautiful season. But a short one. Soon I will be trading in the trail runners for skis. But, for now, I’ll enjoy fall as much as I can.

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7 years ago

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to ask about the traverse over Boulder-Grand Pass. I booked camping permits for a trip that would take me from Thunder Lake to Lake Verna (over Boulder-Grand Pass) to Nokoni/Nanita Lakes (via Andrew’s Peak?) to Flattop Mountain to Bear Lake. If I go through with this plan, this would be the most off-trail travel I have done. I’m not sure if it’s a good first exposure to off-trail backpacking though… the BGP descent (on the West side) looks very steep on the map! How difficult was the terrain there? Was… Read more »

7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Thanks! Now that I’ve thought about it a little more, I’m leaning towards leaving this trip off for a future time in which I have more navigation experience and a lighter pack.

6 years ago

I’m thinking about starting a CDT southbound section by taking a shuttle from Denver airport to Estes Park and then hiking Bear Lake to Grand Lake as a day hike after staying at the Glacier Basin campground for a few nights to explore the area (day hiking). I won’t have a car. If I hike Bear Lake to Grand Lake as a day hike with my overnight gear, would I get into any trouble with not having a backcountry permit? I’ve seen both of your posts on the “European Style” trips over the divide but it looks like your group… Read more »

6 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

I actually called this morning and confirmed that it’s no issue. Thanks.