Length: 9 miles
Elevation gain: 2,850 feet
Route type: Out & Back
During my visit to Rocky, I was rather excited by all the outdoors activities I could do here. Hiking of course, being one of the more abundant activities available, was near the top of the list! One of the first hikes I was able to undertake in the park was the trail up Flattop Mountain. Given I wasn't in the park all that long before attempting this hike, I realize, looking back, that I probably should have acclimated to the elevation and worked on being more prepared for what I was about to do. How can you be unprepared for a hike you intend to take? Simple! You start on the hike you intend to take, around Bear Lake, and then your hiking buddy sees a sign for a simple 4.5 miler (up a mountain) and suggests you do that immediately after. Being totally unprepared can happen if you let it. Just be aware of your abilities and what you can do with what you have before you agree to anything. Packing food, adequate water, and even extra clothing for changing weather conditions can mean the difference between a successful hike and a failed hike!
This trail is strenuous! On this trail, hikers will gain approximately 2,850 feet in just 4½ miles. You are climbing a mountain after all and just because there is a defined hiking trail that doesn't require ropes for ascent, doesn't mean it's a "walk in the park" so to speak. Give yourself plenty of time to make the trek as you don't need to be overcome by exhaustion and carried off the trail because you felt like you wanted to be fastest to the top.
Be prepared! The first attempt at Flattop Mountain ended prematurely for a number of reasons. The first and foremost reason was the change in the weather. Had the weather not turned, I probably would have called off my attempt due to lack of food. On these more strenuous hikes, I burn calories so fast I need to bring food in my pack or I just might pass out. Keep in mind, if you are planning on a long hike: bring adequate food and water!
Watch the weather! While hiking Flattop Mountain, the temperature down below at Bear Lake was a warm 60°F to 70°F. Nearing the top of the mountain, the weather was very different. The temperature was between 35°F to 45°F and it was windy! Being up high and exposed to the elements is a serious matter. You will even pass a placard on the trail noting the weather can change in an instant and to be aware of frequent lightning.