Hike to Flattop Mountain and Andrews Glacier

Flattop Mountain and Andrews Glacier are two hikes in the Bear Lake Area of Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The two hikes can be combined to make a loop by walking along the ridgeline from Flattop Mountain to Andrews Glacier, then descending Andrews Glacier to pick up the Andrews Glacier Trail. 

Click the map to get a page size view of the hike.
Mike and I left Denver around 4 am.  We wandered around Estes Park waiting for a Safeway to open so we could buy some lunch things.  Still we managed to get on the trail around 6:45.

Mike a the Dream Lake Overlook.
Left is a view looking down to Dream Lake.  
Looking up the trail to the top of Flattop Mountain.
Further up the trail near the top.  You can see why it's called Flattop Mountain as the rise behind me is the peak.
From the top of Flattop you look across to Hallett Peak.  Many hikers continue across a large alpine meadow from Flattop to Hallett to then scale Hallett Peak.  If you take this hike you want to do this.
Partway up Hallett Peak looking back toward Flattop Mountain. 

The final ascent up Hallett is a steep and difficult scree field. Also at this point you are well above12,000 feet so you really feel the altitude.
Topozone says Hallett tops out at 12,697 feet.  By the time I got to the top I was feeling every foot of it.

It turned out that the big YMCA camp near Estes Park was having a youth convention and the Flattop Mountain hike was the agenda for the day so it was crowded when we got to the top.
This is a view from Hallett Peak across the alpine meadow to Otis Peak.  Andrews Glacier is on the other side of Otis Peak.

The block of crust forming these mountains is pushed up higher on the east than on the west.  This creates the spectacular granite cliffs that you see in Rocky Mountain National Park but a less extreme slope when approached from the west. 
This picture is looking back toward Hallett Peak from the edge of Otis Peak. 

The walk across the meadow was quite rugged as the footing was not good on all those rocks. 

There is a trail that runs along the west side of the meadow, but we never managed to find it. 
Finally we came to Andrews Glacier.  The Andrews Glacier trail comes to the tarn below the glacier.  There is not actually a trail along or down the glacier but you can use the glacier to get off the alpine meadow and onto the trail.  The problem is that you have to get down the glacier. 

The glacier is steep and in places simply icy.  I guess conditions depends on the recent weather.  Anyway I was a little sorry I didn't have something like a small pick axe just in case I started sliding.
We met another party of hikers.  This fellow seemed very experienced and had explored down the glacier before coming back up.  He seemed like a good person to follow.

I don't know walking on this glacier is dangerous or not but I think not. There were no park warning signs or keep off signs and this route is commonly used as evidenced by the number of online trip journals.  If you decide to take this hike you should check out a few of the web references.  Ref. 1  Ref. 2
There were some places where you just had to sit down and slide.  It was a little dicey.  You could get going awfully fast and potentially start tumbling so you end up digging your fingers into the snow to slow down, which just rubs your fingers raw in short order.

I know I was happy to be off the glacier and happy to have not slid into the icy water.
This picture is looking back to the glacier from the other side of the lake.  The two dots on the glacier are people. 
The trail below the tarn was very difficult.  You have to get down that cliff you see.  The trail goes down the right side into a ravine then back up onto the talus slope.  It didn't help that we lost the trail and had to scrambled down some rocks to pick up the trail and it actually started snowing and then raining.

The talus slope was hard walking as well.  I was happy to get off of it and on the ordinary ground down in the pine trees below.
The walk out was long but uneventful. 

The GPS said the hike was 15 miles in length with 3,200 feet of elevation change.
After a good dinner and a night in Denver we drove the Mt. Evans road the next day.

The Mt. Evans is about an hour west of Denver off I 70 and is a paved road that climbs to the top of Mt. Evans at 14,420 feet.  It is well worth the drive up if you are in the area.

From the parking lot you climb the last 100 feet to the top.  The trail to the top is very easy although at 14,000 feet you feel it.
Looking back on the road up from the top of Mt. Evans.
The End