This trip, though crowded, is a great hike! This was the first time I had hiked with Mark Koppenhauer, a friend from Loveland who had hiked and climbed these parts as a boy scout, 10 to 15 years earlier. He told me some great stories of Tyndal Glacier, and Longs Peak. However, today we decided not to do anything hard. We kept to trails the whole way. It was also the first time I had climbed Hallett Peak, so it was a new experience for me, and quite enjoyable.
We got an early start from the Bear Lake trailhead, and hiked up the Flattop Mountain Trail. It is a pretty trail, and not too steep (mostly, at any rate). There are two major rest stops on the trail: the Dream Lake overlook, and the Emerald Lake overlook. Both have spectacular views, though not of the lakes below. Glacier Gorge was very visible from both points, as well as Hallett Peak above.
Past the second overlook, which is just above treeline, is a warning about snowy conditions. Evidently, a hiker plummeted over a precipice while blindly hiking through a snowstorm. There was also a map of the trails that meet atop Flattop. Flattop is the easiest way to cross the Continental Divide in the park (aside from Trail Ridge), and a few major trails meet atop the mountain.
The trail wound around to the north side of Flattop. At this point, the trail gets quite steep and tiring, and rest breaks became frequent. We eventually made it to a spot below the summit that offered great views of Hallett Peak and Tyndal Glacier. Then, it was off to the top of Flattop.
The summit of Flattop is marked by a trail sign. If not for the sign, you would never know you were atop a mountain -- that's how flat it is up there. From here, the last easy quarter mile or so to the top of Hallett was trailess, though very well marked with cairns. It didn't take me long to reach the top, only about a minute or two ahead of Mark. And, amazingly, we had the summit to ourselves.
We took lots of pictures, and ate some lunch. We had climbed a lot quicker than we thought, so we had time to kill. We probably spent an hour or two on top, mostly by ourselves. As others approached, we left. The trip to the bottom was essentially uneventful.
This hike is great for those who don't have too much time to hike in the park. The view from the top is tremendous, including many popular peaks. The hike is also rather easy. However, the trail is crowded with hikers, so beware if you seek solitude.