Sunday, July 22, 2012

North Inlet - Divide - Tonahutu Loop in RMNP

North Inlet - Divide - Tonahutu Loop

Today I ran the classic Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) loop: the North Inlet to the Divide to Tonahutu Creek and around. The loop is also called the Continental Divide Loop Trail, as it spends a fair bit of time on the Divide between the North Inlet basin and the Tonahutu basin. I did the loop from the North Inlet trailhead, going up the North Inlet trail first. This trail is really runnable, as it gently climbs up the valley past meadows, small waterfalls, and thick forest. After 7 miles you hit a junction, where you take a left and go for another 5.8 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain (12,324'). This section of the trail is really nice, as it climbs up into the upper North Inlet basin, then eventually drops you onto the Divide just below Otis Peak (12,486'). You can easily tag Otis Peak, and then keep going north along the Divide either on the well maintained trail or on the actual Divide if you want to tag Hallet Peak (12,713'), then Flattop, then Notchtop Mountain (12,129') before finally descending across Big Horn Flats and into the Tonahutu basin. Since I was running for time, I only tagged Flattop. Once you are in the Tonahutu basin, it is a nice 12 miles back down to your car at the North Inlet trail. I saw lots of wildlife, including 3 moose, several elk, marmots, osprey, pikas, ptarmigan, and tourists! Actually, I was mildly surprised by how little people I ran into, since it was a Sunday in RMNP in July. I ran into one backpacking group climbing up Hallet Creek to the Divide, several parties on the Divide itself, and then about 4 parties around Big Meadows on Tonahutu Creek. Really, a quiet day in the mountains. The loop comes in at 26 miles with 5,963' of gain and 5,963' of loss. A big day in the mountains for sure, but a real classic loop mountain run if there ever was one. I did it in 5 hours and 37 minutes today, with stops for photos and to empty the shoes.

 There are a million of these little ponds on the way up the North Inlet
 Andrews Peak on the climb up
 Some elk grazing on the way up.
 Looking back down the North Inlet
 Otis Peak in the background - running along the Divide
 The notch of Notchtop Mountain - the Mummy Range is in the background
 The Divide with Longs in the background
 Looking north towards the Tonahutu basin and Sprague Mountain
 Starting to drop down into the Tonahutu basin with the Never Summer in the background
Big Meadows looking north.


  1. It must be difficult living in paradise ;-)

  2. super nice pics. thanks. i am through hiking north inlet to bear lake this friday/saturday.

  3. Nice Philip! Hope you have good weather - the views from up top are amazing.