The next goal of the day was Fall River Pass. It is pretty likely I've been here before, and if you've ever stopped at the AVC, likely that you have too. This is the low point between Trail Ridge and Fall River Pass Mountain, also known as the AVC parking lot. It's difficult to pinpoint an exact location with the parking area being so flat and broad, but it's in there somewhere.
Next we headed down Old Fall River Road to visit Marmot Point. This was one of the first peaks I visited last year, right at sunrise. It was nice to get a different perspective on it in full day light.
Since both of us want to be stewards of the wilderness, we had a bit of trouble picking a way up to Trail Ridge. There are a few signs that say to keep off the tundra at the AVC, and since we want to set a good example for anyone who might be watching, we obeyed them.
Not that this helped, as we saw a lady walking her dog on the tundra right behind a sign saying stay off, and observed various other people walking on the tundra right next to an established trail. Ah well!
We headed up Trail Ridge Road from the AVC, picking up trash along the way. Eventually, we came to a point where we decided to head up. We gained altitude on tundra, and then hit some of my favorite stuff-talus. Well, it wasn't too bad, smaller and mostly stable.
We sat for a snack and talked a bit. Then we headed back down. We stopped at the AVC to deposit the surprisingly large amount of trash we'd accumulated, and then started down the Ute Trail to Milner Pass.
Never Summers and Specimen Mountain Group.
For the past few years, I have had off days in the middle of the week. Now here I was in RMNP on a prime summer Sunday. I could not believe how many people there were! There were people just sitting in their cars at Milner Pass waiting for a parking space. Every lot in the area was full. The AVC was a zoo!
I guess I should add that I'm normally up too early and back too late to see this, but it was strange!
On the way back, I convinced Dan to make a stop at the Hidden Valley Beaver Ponds. This is at a small, unsigned pull out near Hidden Valley. There is a board walk out and back.
This was a nice, easier day for both of us, and it was great to be back in the wilderness with a friend. If you skip the peaks, the length and elevation gain of this hike could be good for kids, and there are plenty of great views along the way. Otherwise, this would be a mellow foray above treeline.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.
Alpine Visitors Center via Milner Pass (distances as part of the hike unless noted):
Forest Canyon Pass, 11320 feet: 1.9 miles, 562 foot gain. Easy+.
Fall River Pass/AVC, 11796 feet: 4.2 miles, 1038 foot gain. Moderate.
Marmot Point, 11909 feet: 5.3 miles, 1151 foot gain. Moderate.
Trail Ridge, 12355 feet: 7.5 miles, 1597 foot gain. Moderate.
Hidden Valley Beaver Wetlands, 9160 feet: .1 mile each way, 20 foot gain. Easy-.
As a whole, this hike covered 13.2 miles with 2126 feet of elevation gain. Moderate.