Flattop Mountain’s 12,324′ summit is more aptly described as an expansive alpine tundra bench along the Continental Divide. From its lofty perch you’ll enjoy 360 views of the Park’s most formidable and distinguishable peaks and mountain ranges. Despite a strenuous climb through high elevations, a well marked and maintained trail makes Flattop Mountain a popular and accessible destination for adequately prepared and fit hikers. From ProTrails description
15.29 miles (but total 16.5 roughly)
4 hours, 41 minutes.
3,487 feet of vertical elevation gain over the first 4.2 miles as my chicken legs carried me up to 12,324 feet and into the heavens of Rocky Mountain National Park. Instead of coming to a sign and an incredible view, I came upon a group of accomplished trail runners, clapping and yelling for me, after I made the hardest climb of my life – something that one and a half years ago would never have crossed my mind.
The climb and celebration was just the beginning, as what goes up, must come down. We ran across rocky terrain, through snow fields still feet deep, and took on single track downhills with 200 feet sheer drops off the side. With every few miles came the same result: the front of the pack would stop and make sure the back of the pack were okay and accounted for.
“Yep, everyone here? Jeff? Ryan? Ernie? Okay, let’s go”
And the group was off to attack the rest of the trail. We brought down a few things from the trail, mainly mud, twisted ankles and cuts and bruises, all which will be healed in a few days but were well worth the views along the way.
One day, I will need this run when heading south on the Trolley Trail in Kansas City. I’ll need to get my miles in but my mind will be fighting against me, telling me I should have stayed home or my legs are gassed and it’s time to give in and turn around.
When that happens, I’ll pull the memories of today’s run to the front. I’ll remember the handshakes from strangers who became friends on the trail. I’ll remember what speechless truly is as I looked out over the Continental Divide from 12,250 feet. I’ll remember the pop-pop-pop of Jeff’s form as he guided his bruised ankles down the descent, being ever so careful to stay injury free, but enjoy the entire experience. I’ll remember as women and men double my age made me feel as I was standing still as they flew up and down the mountain, unfazed by oxygen debt or any number of elements, sent to attack and throw us to the ground.
Most of all, I’ll remember exiting the trail, sitting on a rock thinking how good it felt to finally have a rest…
and how grateful I was for the experience.