A walk through the alpine, far above treeline and away from the road.


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This section of the Ute Trail is part of a longer route, once used by indigenous people to cross the mountains, and now a designated trail in the national park.

The segment begins from a nondescript trailhead along Trail Ridge Road, with a small parking area.

The lack of obvious signage makes it lightly traveled, even though it’s one of the best hikes in this area of the park. The entire distance is above treeline, on alpine tundra at over 11,000 feet elevation.

That means non-stop views in all directions, as long as the weather is clear.

Beware of monsoon storms that can pop up violently in summer and turn back if dark clouds begin to build.

If you go the whole way from the road to Timberline Pass, you’ll gain a total of about 400 feet elevation, with nothing too steep. The trail goes along Tombstone Ridge, through a sky-high ecosystem of grasses, tiny flowers, and lichen clinging to infinite scattered rocks.

Despite the scant vegetation, the solitude of the alpine still draws wildlife.

You may see marmots, pikas, mountain goats, or even elk crossing the tundra.

You’ll know when you’re approaching the pass because it’s marked by a natural rock outcrop, appearing like a giant cairn on the ridge.

Just beyond that, the trail tips sharply downward, and you’ll gaze into the valley below.

Though the Ute Trail continues, this makes a good turnaround point for the ridge hike. Sources: https://liveandlethike.com/2013/08/10/ute-trail-tombstone-ridge-timberline-pass-rocky-mountain-national-park-co/ http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/ute-trail.htm