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Longs Peak: Keyhole Route

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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Longs Peak: Keyhole Route

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  • Roaring Fork Creek.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Typical trail conditions on the way up.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Wildflowers abound.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Early morning cloud play.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Wildflowers en route to Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Sunrise along the route to Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Morning dew on the wildflowers.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Cairns make the trail once you reach the tundra.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The ascent never relents.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • A heard of elk grazing just off of the route to Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • First glimpse of the massive summit. Mount Meeker is to the left, Longs Peak is to the right.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Sunrise as the boulder field approaches.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The diamond face of Longs Peak, which boasts 3,000 feet of vertical prominence.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Sunrise en route to Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The junction for Boulder Mountain.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The views are incredible on the way up.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Ascending to Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The gigantic boulder field as hikers approach the Keyhole from the southwest.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The famous keyhole. Follow the cairns within the boulder field for the best appraoch.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Steep incline to the notch.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Know what you are getting into. This is not a route for beginners.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Marmots abound.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The mission ahead.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • For last minute nature calls, there is a solar powered bathroom within the boulder field near protected campsites.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The slog up to Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Crossing the first traverse from the Keyhole over to the Trough.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The views west into Rocky Mountain National Park.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The Trough is a long, vertical climb across boulders. This section makes or breaks the hiker.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • View at the base of the Homestretch onto the Mount Meeker traverse.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The Homestrech is a steep, vertical climb up to the summit. Follow the bulls eyes.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Looking west from the summit of Longs Peak (14,255 feet).- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • This crew of soldiers was up and down in 9.5 hours, but expect it to take up to 12 with a steady pace.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Camping at the Boulderfield can really shorten the climb.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The Keyhole before dawn.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Sunrise from the Keyhole.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Glacier Basin in morning light.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The Ledges.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The Trough.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Top of the Trough.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The Narrows.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • The summit of Longs Peak!- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Mount Meeker from Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Chasm Lake basin from Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • Looking south toward the Indian Peaks from the summit of Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
  • A herd of elk seen on the descent from Longs Peak.- Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Outstanding views. Great physical challenge. Close to Denver.
Cons: 
High congestion on weekends and in summer months.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Recommended Equipment:
Helmets
Alpine climbing NCCS rating: 
Grade III
Net Elevation Gain: 
5,100.00 ft (1,554.48 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
12.80 mi (20.60 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 
9,400.00 ft (2,865.12 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

The Front Range sits just west of Denver, offering a few 14ers to choose from, none more formidable than Longs Peak on the northern end. Standing at 14,259 feet, it offers the hiker a more challenging route compared to Grays Peak, Torreys Peak, and Pikes Peak to the south. The Keyhole Route is a Class III approach that is better suited for those with a more adventurous soul.  

From the Longs Peak Trailhead, follow the East Longs Peak Trail. The trail starts through a thick forest with gentle switchbacks. At approximately 0.5 miles you will reach a junction: stay left. The trail continues to follow the Alpine Brook through the forest and passes Goblins Forest. There are a few campsites within Goblins Forest, but for the day hiker, continue along the path. The trail eventually crosses Alpine Brook via a wood bridge. There are a few good photo opportunities to capture the mountain landscape here.  

The trail will begin to ascend up to a thinning forest, and a view of the Twin Peaks to the east appear. Before long you are above tree line and approaching the tundra at 11,000 feet, where initial views of Mount Meeker and Longs Peak appear. Continuing along the trail, you will reach another signed junction: stay left. The trail will continue to gain moderate elevation through a designated trail toward the Chasm Lake Trail junction. This is a good spot to catch your breath for the upcoming traverse toward Granite Pass.  

The traverse is moderately long before reaching Granite Pass. From Granite Pass, the view to the north begins to reveal Rocky Mountain National Park. Continue along the switchbacks up to the North Boulder Field. Longs Peak will now be in your scope as you ascend the mountain.  

A designated outhouse is a prominent landmark at the beginning of the boulder field and a good stopping point. The boulder field is the beginning of the technical approach. Route finding will be needed as you follow the manmade cairns through the boulder field up toward the prominent Keyhole. The pitch intensifies, and you will begin to feel the elevation. Plan ahead of time and put on a windbreaker, as the Keyhole tends to be very windy.  

From the Keyhole, traverse south following the painted bullseyes. You will be tracking toward the bottom of the Trough. The Trough, at 13,300 feet, is a 600-foot vertical ascent that seems neverending. Make sure you take some time to catch your breath, as the altitude will begin playing a factor. At the top of the Trough there is a short, steep pitch that requires precise footholds. It can get congested in this area.  

Once this pitch has been accomplished, the Narrows appears. The Narrows is an exposed southwest facing obstacle that requires focus and deliberate foot placement. The span lasts approximately 200 yards before reaching the Homestretch.  

The Homestretch is a steep, almost vertical rock climb up to the summit. Continue following the bullseyes for the best approach. Careful foot placements along the main cracks will help aid in good traction. The Homestretch is about 100 yards up. After completing this section, you will reach the flat and expansive summit of Longs Peak.  

Take in the views, as they are impressive, but keep an eye on the weather. Things up at 14,255 feet change fast, and it is important that you leave enough time to descend. Make sure you try and reach the summit before noon, as afternoon summer monsoons are common. Also, keep in mind that you are only half way to your car, and the descent often takes a harder toll on the knees and body. Continue the way you came following the bullseyes. Usually the descent shaves an hour off of the time it took to ascend.

 

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