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East Longs Peak Trail and Saint Catherine’s Chapel on the Rock Estes Park, CO

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

This was a sporadic hike we decided to take one beautiful Friday morning in the middle of July. Heading north from Denver, we stopped along South Saint Vrain Drive to take in the beautiful rapids of South Saint Vrain Creek. The destination plugged into our GPS was Longs Peak Trailhead (1398 Longs Peak Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517) but with so many places to pull off the road along South Saint Vrain (also known as Route 7) we couldn’t resist a quick stop to dip our toes in the clear cool water and take in the absolute picturesque surroundings of Coffintop Mountain, sipping our iced café lattes.

About halfway between Allenspark and the parking lot of Longs Peak trail, we took another quick pitstop to experience the divine beauty of Saint Catherine’s Chapel on the Rock. This catholic chapel has its literal foundation laid upon a rock. Paired with the stunning backdrop of Mount Lady Washington, Longs Peak and Mount Meeker, this won’t be a place you’ll soon forget. To learn more about Saint Catherine’s Chapel, check out their website here.

Ok, now for the main event. The parking lot of Longs Peak Trailhead is large. Even though this trail is technically in Rocky Mountain National Park, the entrance to the park is on the backside and therefore not nearly as popular as the park’s main entrance. We didn’t have any trouble finding a parking spot, but we also didn’t get to the trailhead until almost 2 in the afternoon. For Rocky Mountain National Park, afternoon visits tend to be a little less crowded. I think most folks exploring the park like to get an early start so they can give themselves plenty of time to experience the grandeur this place offers. However not everyone spends all day at the park and that results in parking spaces freeing up for us late comers.

According to Alltrails, Longs Peak trail is almost 15 miles long and is rated as difficult. Katie and I chose this trail knowing we weren’t going to hike hardly any of it, but within two miles of starting the trail, there is a magnificent waterfall we really wanted to see. So, taking East Longs Peak trail, we started the climb. The overall change in elevation to get to the waterfall was around 1,000 feet achieved over the span of about two miles. Following the waterfall, we then continued about another quarter of a mile, where the tree line stopped, and had lunch, taking in the views of Twin Sisters Peak East and the dramatic valley below.

On the drive home, we decided to continue Route 7 in the direction we arrived in Longs Peak which was by driving north toward Estes Park. Estes Park is one of those places that we just couldn’t get enough of. Once there, its easy to pick up route 36 and head south back towards Denver.

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