Date: October 30, 2016
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge (9,180′)
Approach: South Slope via Stone Man Pass
Distance: ~ 13 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 4,200 ft.
Participants: Will Robnett, Dillon Sarnelli
Way back in 2011 I made my first trip into Glacier Gorge and like most folks who exit their vehicles at the trailhead, I was there to see something called Alberta Falls. Don’t get me wrong, Alberta Falls is great. Heck, I even took my family there later that summer, but let’s be serious now. Others may even go as far as the Loch or Mills Lake, also pretty spectacular in their own right. But for those willing to make the 5 mile trek deep into the heart of Glacier Gorge to where the upper plateau begins, that’s where the crown jewel of the park gets real. Names like Longs, Arrowhead, Pagoda, McHenrys, The Spearhead, Chiefs Head, to name a few, scatter the landscape. Believe it or not, but it actually took me 2 years to get past Alberta Falls, a December 2013 summit of Pagoda, and still one of my favorite days in the Park to date. Since then I’ve been itching to get back, which just so happens to bring us to this episode. 🙂
Pagoda Mountain sits at the southern end of Glacier Gorge in between two of Rocky Mountain National Park’s beasts: Longs Peak (14,255 ft.) and Chiefs Head Peak (13,579 ft.). With an elevation of 13,497 ft., Pagoda Mountain is the 7th highest ranked peak in The Park. It’s been said that Pagoda’s summit register (which we unfortunately couldn’t locate) may receive on average about 75 signatures a year, while its neighbor may receive that many visitors in one summer day.