Mount Ida (12,881′) | Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Lake, CO | 06/27/20 | 9.94 miles | 2,358′ gain
Mount Ida had been on my wish list for years but I just never seemed to make the time for it. I gave it a shot in 2019 but there was still too much snow in June and I was post-holing even with snowshoes (no thanks). I didn’t return until a year later, hoping the trail would be dry this time (thankfully it was).
The Mount Ida Trail starts from the Milner Pass Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. I woke up early to arrive at 6am, hoping to beat both the crowds and the afternoon thunderstorms. I passed Poudre Lake and started up the switchbacks. The trail starts in the forest but soon passes treeline and crosses into the alpine tundra, my favorite life zone. I was so excited!
At one point I stopped to catch my breath. There was no one else around and the forest was quiet. I turned around to start walking again and was surprised to see a deer just in front of me. She was within 50 feet, just watching me. I stood still and let her move on before I continued. What a special moment!
The forest was full of spring wildflowers and the tundra wasn’t too far behind. I soon found myself at treeline, gawking at the mountains around me. There is a reason Rocky Mountain was made into a national park – it’s absolutely gorgeous.
Once above treeline, the trail follows the Continental Divide. This particular section of the divide is gentle and the trail rarely exceeded a moderate incline. I was surprised how far away Mount Ida looked though – I still had a few miles to go!
The easy miles went by quickly but I did stop to rest for a few minutes. Some people were coming up behind me and I wanted to let them pass. As they approached, I thought they looked familiar. I couldn’t tell until they got close however, that it was my friend Diana and her fiancé Pat! They were kind enough to let me hike with them the rest of the way.
The summit wasn’t too far away now but the trail became more difficult to follow. There are a number of trail options through this area and we found ourselves on one trail on the way up and another trail on the way down. Occasionally the trail we were on would disappear and we’d have to hunt to find the next section. Thankfully, route-finding was pretty straightforward since we were always in sight of the summit.
The weather was holding out for us so we spent a good amount of time on the summit. On the way back, we passed the hoards of people we had so far managed to avoid. But the miles went by quickly and we even saw a herd of bighorn sheep!
This was such a cool hike. The wildlife, wildflowers, and incredible vistas all made it one to remember.