Estes Cone is a 11,010′ peak that is considered an intermediate to difficult hike. You can get there from the Longs Peak Trailhead or from Lily Lake, but both require a strenuous 0.6 mile hike on Estes Cone Trail to get to the summit.
From various hikes in the past such as Twin Sisters Peaks, Deer Mountain, and Lumpy Ridge, we had seen the distinctive shape of Estes Cone near Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak. As a result, we were interested in exploring the peak.
Longs Peak Trailhead Parking Lot
When we arrived at 7:30 am the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot was already full, with cars parking along the road approaching the parking lot.
We had to turn around and park by the side of the road. A NPS Ranger told us that this trailhead gets full early in the morning, even as early as 3 or 4 am, because of the number of people who hike up to Longs Peak and Chasm Lake early for safety from summer storms. I’ve also read from others’ experiences that there is usually space at 6 am, and even up to 7 am.
The parking lot has several restrooms and a small ranger station.
You start out along the Longs Peak Trail, the same trail that heads off to Chasm Lake and Longs Peak summit.
The beginning of the trail is wide and well-traversed beneath the forest canopy. Since there are no views for a while, I could see how you could easily hike this portion of the trail to Longs Peak in the darkness.
Eugenia Mine Trail
At the first junction, instead of continuing along Longs Peak Trail, you turn right onto Eugenia Mine Trail and continue along for 1.3 miles.
This trail continues through the forest and passes Eugenia Mine, a failed gold mine, just after crossing Inn Brook.
Further along this trail are the Moore Park Campsites, which looked like a nice location to camp.
We thought so in particular because just 0.1 miles further along the trail is a lovely meadow where you can watch the stars at night.
Estes Cone Junction – Moore Park Trail
Soon after the meadow you hit a junction and turn left onto the Estes Cone Junction – Moore Park Trail, continuing for 0.7 miles.
Along this trail you start to see some views of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak, peeking out from behind Battle Mountain.
Estes Cone Trail
At the end of Estes Cone Junction – Moore Park Trail you reach Storm Pass. Storm Pass in a junction of 4 trails –
From Storm Pass to the summit is 0.6 miles with approximately 800 ft elevation gain, making for steep climbing. The trail is not well marked and you need to keep an eye out for cairns that mark the way. I’m not sure how anyone hikes this in the wintertime when the markings and cairns are under snow.
Along the way you start to see even more of Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, and Battle Mountain.
There is a particularly steep scramble you have to climb using hands to get to the summit, which is just above the treeline.
Views from the Summit of Estes Cone
One of the rangers at the Longs Peak trailhead ranger station told us he thinks Estes Cone has some of the best panoramic views in Rocky Mountain National Park. The views certainly did not disappoint, although the day we visited it was a bit hazy.
Looking north from the viewpoint –
Mt. Meeker (13,911′) and Longs Peak (14,255′), Mt. Lady Washington (13,281′), and Battle Mountain (12,044′)-
Close-up of Mt. Meeker (13,911′) and Longs Peak (14,255′), the brown mountain in front of Longs is Mt. Lady Washington (13,281′)-
Battle Mountain (12,044′)-
From left to right – Otis Peak (12,486′), Hallett Peak (12,713′), Flattop Mountain (12,324′) –
Hallett Peak (12,713′) –
Left to right – Stones Peak (12,922′) and Stapps Peak (12,736′) –
The Mummy Range. From left to right – Mt. Chapin (12,454′) Mt. Chiquita (13,069′), Ypsilon Mountain (13,514′) in the middle, Fairchild Mountain (13,502′), and Mummy Mountain (13,425′) –
Ypsilon Mountain (13,514′) –
From left to right, Fairchild Mountain (13,502′), and Mummy Mountain (13,425′) –
The view to the south –
If you climb up a rock at the center of the summit area, you can see from left to right Enos Mills (9,790′), Crag (10,851′), and the Twin Sisters Peaks (east summit 11,428′ and west summit 11,413′) –
Twin Sisters Peaks (east summit in the back 11,428′ and west summit in the foreground 11,413′). You can clearly see the landslide from the 2013 floods –
The west summit of Twin Sisters Peaks, where we hiked before –
And looking toward Estes Park –
Close-up of Lily Lake –
And zooming in on Estes Park –
Recommended as a Hike for Rocky Mountain Views
At 6.3 miles with 1,849 ft elevation gain, of approximately 800 ft is in the last half mile to the summit, the hike to Estes Cone is somewhat challenging, but definitely doable. The views of the Rocky Mountains, especially the Mummy Range, were beautiful and well worth the effort to trek and climb the rock scramble to the top.