I’m so happy that I was able to hike to Chiefs Head Peak. Especially considering the fact that it was just two days before our family’s departure from Colorado. And especially considering the fact that I got to do it with Clay, Annie, and Marcel.
All summer long, I’ve been thinking that Chiefs Head Peak would be an epic ”Capstone Hike” — worthy of the eight-week build-up in my hiking form… a physical challenge on par with Longs Peak (the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park)… and yet another Deep Cut from the Rocky Mountain National Park Discography. Our group was all set to try Chiefs Head a week ago. Unfortunately, though, we had to switch to a different destination, last-minute, because of weather forecasts. This time around, luckily, the weather conditions ended up being perfect. We had clear skies, mild temperatures, and only the very lightest of winds (even at the summit).
The group was also significant because it represented the ”Core Four” of our Wednesday hiking group. The formation of this group was largely circumstantial — based on work schedules and hiking ability. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that we had several others who cycled in and out of a Wednesday hike or two with us. In any event, the ”Core Four” just covered a lot of ground together: 60.78 miles and 15,735 feet of elevation, to be specific. So, in the hours that we spent together on the trail, we just got to talk about a lot of different things. We developed a special sort of camaraderie. So it just felt right to do this Capstone Hike with this Core Four.
And I haven’t even got to the part where I describe the amazing features of the hike itself! Honestly, it might even be my new favorite hike! I probably need to wait for the recency bias to fade before I can speak definitively. Even so, I feel very confident in saying that it’s a very, very good hike. Significantly better than Longs Peak.
One of my favorite thing about the hike to Chiefs Head Peak is that it’s a loop, not an out-and-back. We actually brought two cars to park at two different trailheads, in order to cut out three miles of walking along a dusty dirt road (which would have truly completed the loop). Still, we never saw the same section of trail twice. I love that kind of variety — and I love the way it looks on a map. There’s also a really lovely variety of scenery on this hike: forests… rivers… lakes… waterfalls… alpine tundra…
My favorite part of the hike to Chiefs Head, though, was the part where we hiked through meadows filled with wildflowers! Just after clearing tree line, above Sandbeach Lake, we had about a mile of soft, grassy terrain. Millions of wildflowers spread out in every direction. And across the valley, our ascent towards Chiefs Head provided us with dramatic views of Mount Meeker, Longs Peak, and Pagoda Mountain.
And the view from the top of Chiefs Head Peak was incredible. It’s the third-highest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park, so its view rivals that from Longs Peak. And it may be even better! I especially appreciated the view across sheer vertical drop into Glacier Gorge (where our group had ended up hiking the previous week).
Without a doubt: the hike to Chiefs Head Peak was challenging. We were completely exhausted by the end. But it was a very happy sort of exhaustion for me. It felt like a privilege, a gift, to be able to finish my summer of hiking in Colorado with those last weary steps to the waiting car in the parking lot.