Marmot Point (Rocky Mountain National Park, CO)

Marmot Point, July 2013

Marmot Point, July 2013

Despite being far less visited than its slightly higher cousin (Alpine Ridge Trail at Alpine VC, 12,005’), Marmot Point (11,909’) is no less spectacular. In fact, because the unpaved, one-way route up Old Fall River Road tends to weed out visitors, the relative solitude of Marmot Point makes this route perhaps a more attractive alternative. The short but steep ascent, in the open sun with no tree cover, endows tremendous 360 degree vistas—with Trail Ridge and Fall River Valley to the south, the Mummy Range to the east, and Cache la Poudre Valley, Iron Mountain, and the Never Summers to the north and west. If looking for a quick summit hike in the park, Marmot Point nicely fits the bill.

Marmot Point snip

The hike

Though it is just 0.7 miles from Alpine Visitor Center, the only way to reach the Marmot Point trailhead by car is to drive 10 miles up the one-way Old Fall River Road (alternatively, however, one could park at Alpine VC and walk down the gravel road 0.7 miles to the trailhead). While the trailhead is not marked, the clear path heading up Marmot Point and the small collection of parked cars is a dead giveaway.

Marmot Point trailhead

Marmot Point trailhead

The trail begins on the right hand side of the road, near a small pond and a small outcropping of heavy, chalk white boulders (from which there are fine views by its own right).

Marmot Point Trail, maybe 1/3 of the way up

Marmot Point Trail, maybe halfway up

500 feet above the timberline, the vegetation on Marmot Point is sparse, leaving hikers exposed to full sun on a clear day.

Marmot Point Trail

Marmot Point Trail

The steep slope climbs almost relentlessly for 0.4 miles – if you are looking for a gradual climb up neatly stacked switchbacks, this is not the trail for you.

Marmot Point Trail, with Old Fall River Road and Alpine Visitor Center beyond

Marmot Point Trail, with Old Fall River Road, Alpine Visitor Center, and Iron Mountain beyond

There are, of course, perks of being high up in the tundra. Late on a Monday morning in July, we were fortunate enough to spot a group of impressive elk…

Picturesque elk sighting

Picturesque elk sighting

…As well as a few marmots scurrying in and out of the rocks (hence the name, Marmot Point).

Marmot

Marmot

Like any trail of this nature, there are a couple deceptive, false summits, but for the most part, the average hiker should be able to reach the top within a half hour.

Marmot Point summit (11,909')

Marmot Point summit (11,909′)

The panoramic views from the Marmot Point summit easily make the tough slog worthwhile!

Fall River Valley and Trail Ridge from the summit

Fall River Valley and Trail Ridge from the summit

Southwest toward Trail Ridge and Alpine Visitor Center

Southwest toward Trail Ridge and Alpine Visitor Center

Ypsilon Mountain (13,514') and Mount Chiquita (13,069') to the northeast

Ypsilon Mountain (13,514′) and Mount Chiquita (13,069′) to the northeast

Cache La Poudre Valley to the north

Cache La Poudre Valley to the north

After spending some time exploring at the top, return the same way you came. Allot at least 45 minutes to an hour for the round trip.

Iron Mountain to the northwest

Iron Mountain (12,695′) and the Never Summer Mountains to the northwest

This entry was posted in Colorado, Moderate Hikes, Rocky Mountain National Park and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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