Yesterday, Tara and I went to run Shadow Mountain, which lies on the outskirts of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a good early season (or in this year's case, late season because of the snow pack) mountain run to get you ready for the higher peaks. The views from the Shadow Mountain Lookout Tower are also well worth the run, and if you do it on a weekday you are most likely to have the entire mountain and ~12 miles trail system to yourself.
The below description is for running from the Shadow Mountain Dam side. For running from the Grand Lake side, see here.
Views along Shadow Mountain Reservoir
From the trailhead, run on the east shore of Shadow Mountain Lake for approximately 1.7 miles to a signed fork in the trail. Go right to start the Shadow Mountain Trail. Run uphill on the Shadow Mountain Trail for 3.2 miles to the saddle between the small rise which holds the Shadow Mountain Lookout Tower and the summit of Shadow Mountain. The Shadow Mountain Lookout Tower is only 0.1 mile to the west so it's worth a quick visit. Otherwise, run/bush whack up from the saddle 0.45 mile southeast to the summit of Shadow Mountain. From the top, it is all downhill... On this day it took us 2 hours and 12 minutes to do the roundtrip, and we stopped plenty along the shore on the way back to enjoy the water.
Climbing through the thick forest
Views from the top looking at Grand Lake and the Never Summer Range
The numbers for those who care....
Distance Roundtrip: ~12 miles roundtrip
Start Elevation: ~8,400 feet
High Point: ~9,966 feet
Total climbing and descending: ~4,778 feet
Difficulty: Medium Other People Factor: Minimal
Time: 2 - 5 hours depending on how often you stop to enjoy the views.