There are many opportunities to hike through the alpine tundra above the tree line in Rocky Mountain National Park. Some of these trails require significant climbing at over 11,000 feet, which is difficult if you are not acclimatized to the high altitude of the park. Other alpine trails are short and crowded, like the Alpine Ridge Trail, and don’t offer much in the way of solitude. The historic Ute Trail is not heavily used and offers magnificent views above tree line, a moderate length, and only modest elevation gain. The trail goes all the way to the Beaver Meadows Trailhead near the eastern edge of the park, and a car shuttle would make that a wonderful (mostly downhill) hike. This adventure is a shorter hike with a turnaround at Timberline Pass.
The Ute Crossing trailhead is off of Trail Ridge Road and is marked only by an informational sign about the history of the trail. Long used by the Native American people who seasonally passed through this area, it was probably a game trail before that as it is an easy traverse of some rugged country. The entire route follows the west side of Tombstone Ridge and offers views of the Continental Divide to the west. Near the 2-mile point the trail passes to the right of a lone rock outcropping, and just beyond that point the views to the Big Thompson River Valley begin to appear and the trail drops steeply. This pass is a great turnaround spot, but the temptation to keep going at least a little further is strong! On the way back, a short scramble up to the top of the nearby ridge offers wonderful views to the east.