Climb Notchtop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rate this Adventure Bear Lake Trailhead, Estes Park, Colorado, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    3.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1550 Feet

Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

This peak offers incredibly varied alpine climbing, incredible views of the Continental Divide and surrounding alpine lakes, is an easy hike from the parking lot, and is far less crowded than nearby Petit Grepon. This is one of the most sought-after climbs in the park with year-round climbing options with something for different skill levels. "Great views, spectacular climbing, and a short approach make Notchtop at RMNP a locals' favorite." - Josh Gross, AMGA certified guide with CMS.

Park at Bear Lake, and follow the signs north of the lake to Odessa Lake. However, do NOT go all the way to Odessa Lake; after about 3 miles, when Notchtop is in full view, the trail begins to descend to Odessa Lake. Find an unmarked spur trail to the left which leads to shallow Lake Helene, then scramble through slabs and krummholtz west of the lake to treeline and some small tarns. The cliff is obvious from there.

These are the most popular routes:

West Gully Class 4 : more of a scrambling/ mountaineering route
Spiral Route II 5.4: Literally spirals around the formation eventually reaching the summit from the north east.
Direct South Ridge III 5.9: Hands down the best rock climb on Notchtop. Characterized by steep exposed crack climbing.
North Face III 5.6 AI4, Steep Snow: When in condition offers a excellent alpine route of snow, ice, rock pitches.

This adventure should only be attempted by technical climbers with experience in the backcountry. If you do not have much experience, or just want to ensure a fun and safe adventure alpine climbing, Colorado Mountain School is a wonderful guiding service that can help you and your party have the best adventure possible in the mountains. Give them a shout to learn more! 

Lastly, all climbers who plan on spending the night and getting an early start (a must due to frequent afternoon thunderstorms in Colorado) will need to plan on getting a wilderness bivouac permit. You can pick one up from the Wilderness Office right before the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. Learn more about the fine print for this here

Pack List

  • Bivy permit
  • Stove/fuel
  • Food
  • High energy snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Water treatment
  • Backpack
  • Bivy sack/shelter 
  • Hiking boots 
  • Climbing shoes
  • Layers for alpine (remember you are at 12,600 feet so will need warm clothes even in the summer!)
  • Harness
  • Climbing Rope
  • Helmet 
  • Pro, slings and carabiners, plus gear for creating a belay anchor at the top of the pitches.
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Christin Healey Explorer

Explorer, adventure seeker, lover of life and all things creative.

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