Thunder Lake

Estes Park, CO
4.9 (25 reviews)

Trip Highlights

  • Waterfalls & Mountain Lakes
  • Stunning Alpine Hiking
  • Camp near Thunder Lake
  • Mountain Solitude
  • Gain Elevation of 12,000+ Feet
  • Breathtaking Mountain Views
  • Abundant Wildlife Habitat

Description

Thunder Lake sits at the top of Wild Basin, one of the most stunning and lesser-visited cirques in Rocky Mountain National Park. This backpacking trip takes us to the shores of Thunder Lake, and then far beyond it into some remote and truly magnificent high country. With a basecamp near Thunder Lake, we venture high into the alpine peaks, hanging valleys, hidden cirques of the Continental Divide for an unforgettable 4-day adventure!

We’ll set up camp in a forest above Thunder Lake surrounded by giant peaks like Tanima Peak (12,420 ft), Chief’s Head (13,579 ft) and Mount Alice (13,310 ft). On day hiking excursions, we’ll climb into the high country above Thunder Lake, which features several beautiful waterfalls as well as signature hiking on classic Rocky Mountain ridges and peaks. The combination of waterfalls, alpine lakes and stunning scenery make these truly unforgettable days in the high country! Come experience an unforgettable Colorado backpacking adventure!

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3 Days
$1085 Per Person
4 Days
$1275 Per Person
Return Guests get a 10% discount on all Trips!
Trip Type: Guided Backpacking Trip
Difficulty Level:
Solitude Level:
Group Size: 4-6 Guests
Trip Length: 3-4 Days
Distance: 22MI / 35KM

DIFFICULTY LEVEL 3

Our difficulty ratings are based on a scale of 1-5, tours with a rating of 1 being least difficult, tours with a rating of 5 being most difficult

Backpack Weight:
25-35 pounds
Daily Hiking Distances:
5-7 miles
Most Elevation Loss:
2250 feet
Most Elevation Gain:
2250 feet
Quality of Trails:
Well maintained and off trail
Additional:
This trip goes up to approximately 12,000 feet in elevation. It’s best to arrive in Estes Park a day or two early to acclimatize. We will also be hiking off trail at times on variable terrain including meadows, forests and talus.

Participants should:

  1. be active and healthy
  2. exercise several times per week
  3. be comfortable hiking 6-8 miles per day in hilly or mountainous terrain with a 25-pound backpack

SOLITUDE LEVEL 3

1 least solitude, 5 most solitude

We rate this Colorado backpacking trip a solitude 3. You can expect hours of solitude at a time.

TRAVEL TO ESTES PARK

All Rocky Mountain National Park trips begin and end from Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park does not have an airport. The most convenient airport is Denver International Airport (DIA), which is served by most major airlines and is an inexpensive airport to fly into. From DIA one can take a shuttle or rent a car to reach Estes Park. It is a 1.5-hour drive from DIA to Estes Park on good roads.

Denver to Estes Park Shuttles

Estes Park Shuttle: 970-586-5151

SuperShuttle: 970-482-0505

Private Trips

Travel in perfect company by booking a private trip exclusively for your group!

Our sliding scale for private trips is based on the final number of guests in your group. Rates are per person and do not include sales tax, national park fees or guide gratuity. The final rate is based on the actual number of guests on the trip and may adjust based on cancellations or additions.

Please Note: you can also enjoy a private trip at our normal scheduled rates by filling any empty tour to capacity. However, if group members drop from the tour those spots will automatically become available on our website for instant booking. By purchasing a private trip at the rates listed below, your trip will remain exclusive to your group regardless of cancellations. 

Private Rates FOr This Trip

  • 2 People: Rate x 2.5
  • 3 People: Rate x 1.75
  • 4 People: Rate x 1.25
  • 5+ People: Rate x 1.15

*all rates are per person

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We’re here to help. If you have any questions, call 800-715-HIKE or contact us online.
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TRIP ITINERARY

TRIP ITINERARY

DAY 1

  • Shuttle to trailhead: 30 minutes
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,250 feet

This Rocky Mountain National Park backpacking trip starts with a scenic drive from Estes Park to our trailhead. After doing a final fit with the backpacks we begin our hike. In the first two miles we hike past Copeland Falls – a beautiful cascade along North St. Vrain Creek. The remainder of our trek continues up North St. Vrain Creek to our camp at Thunder Lake. We’ll camp a short distance from the lake, next to a serene meadow with breathtaking views into the high country’s snow-capped peaks. After a tasty dinner and a stunning sunset we’ll settle in for the night.

DAY 2

  • Hiking Mileage: 6+ miles day hiking
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1500 feet

After a relaxing morning and hearty breakfast we’ll depart with light backpacks for a day of hiking and exploring in the higher mountains. We’ll hike west through an alpine basin thick with thousands of wildflowers and up to the Continental Divide. The Lake of Many Winds sits very near the Divide below Boulder-Grand Pass. We’ll hike around the lake and up to the pass for views into the lush, western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. If the group is up for it, we can continue on for a summit attempt of Tanima Peak (12,420 Ft.)

DAY 3 (4-DAY ITINERARY ONLY)

  • Hiking Mileage: 5+ miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 1,250+ feet

Day 3 is often remembered as the highlight of this trip. After breakfast we begin our hike off trail up the South Fork of North St. Vrain Creek. After traversing into the valley we’ll come to Mertensia Falls, a waterfall that thunders down through a steep drainage. As we continue hiking up the valley we arrive at Box and Eagle Lakes, which reside below the Continental Divide. Wildflowers are abundant throughout this entire hike, as are opportunities to see marmot, pikas and bighorn sheep. We’ll eat lunch with a view before turning back and making our way to camp.

FINAL DAY

  • Hiking Mileage: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 2,250 feet
  • Shuttle to Estes Park: 30 minutes

After a relaxing morning and a big breakfast we’ll break camp and begin our hike back to the trailhead. We’ll hike a slightly different trail on the way back that takes us along Ouzel Creek, past Ouzel Falls and Calypso Cascades, both Rocky Mountain water features well worth seeing. Ouzel Falls is a sheer waterfall about 50 feet high, and Calypso Cascades is a beautiful stretch of tumbling water in a thick Lodgepole Pine forest. Our arrival at Wild Basin Trailhead marks the end of our backpacking trip; after a short shuttle ride back to Estes Park we’ll drop you off at your hotel where warm showers await you!

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Dates & Booking

TRIP DATES & BOOKING

Click on a date to register. You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.

Available to Book

AVAILABLE TO BOOK

This trip is available and bookable online! Click on the date to register now or contact us online to book through our award-winning customer service team!

Going Fast

GOING FAST

This trip has 1 or 2 spots remaining and is bookable online! Click on the date to book now or contact us online to book through customer service.

Request a Reservation

REQUEST A RESERVATION

This trip is exclusively booked through customer service due to logistics with lodging, permits, staffing, availability, or something else. Please contact us online or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to request a reservation.

Don't see your dates? Call us! We may be able to add new trip dates.

800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Details

Trip Details

WHAT'S INCLUDED

  • Top-of-the-line tent, backcountry sleeping pad and multi-day backpack
  • High quality, synthetic sleeping bag (professionally laundered after every use) – or bring your own.
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Rocky Mountain hiking guide
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Transportation for the duration of the trip beginning and ending in Estes Park, CO
  • Bear cannisters for food storage
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

  • Clothes, raingear and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about what to pack.

MEALS: WHAT TO EXPECT

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

GEAR WE PROVIDE

We provide all group gear which includes the following:

  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware synthetic-fill sleeping bags (or bring your own)
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Bear cannisters
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Emergency communication device(s)

WHAT GEAR TO BRING

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important.

Additionally, some guests choose to bring their own sleeping bag. We supply high quality, synthetic fill bags that are professionally laundered after every trip. Synthetic fill is non-allergenic, insulates when damp and stands up well to repeated washings, but is heavier and bulkier than down. If you’re able to bring your own down sleeping bag, there are multiple benefits. If not, we’ve got you covered!

WHAT CLOTHES TO BRING

When you register for this tour you’ll receive access to a printable, downloadable trip information packet with detailed guidance about what clothes to pack (click here to see it now.) All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, rain gear, and our recommended clothing system. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required.

Trip Logistics

Trip Logistics

HOW DO I REGISTER?

Reserve your spot today! In the Trip Dates & Booking section of this page, the green and red dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you’re ready to register we’ll email you a link to a registration profile. You’ll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit.

Feel free to call us for more info – we’re here 7 days a week!

WHERE DO WE MEET?

You will meet your guide and group in Estes Park, Colorado at the Estes Park Mountain Shop (2050 Big Thompson Ave) at 5:00 PM the evening before your trip begins for an orientation meeting. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip to answer any questions you have, provide you with more details about your exact trip, and coordinate the rendezvous.

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about flights, shuttles, recommended lodging and more.

START/END TIMES

Your guide will inform you of the first day’s pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).

SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT’s, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We’ve developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 888-804-3267 for more information.

GUIDES

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

GUIDE WORKING PARAMETERS

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time…etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides’ off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

GROUP SIZE AND AGE RESTRICTIONS

The standard group size on Rocky Mountain National Park backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 888-804-3267 and we’ll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:

  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

WEATHER IN THE COLORADO ROCKIES

Being a high mountain environment, the Rocky Mountains are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in Colorado’s high country. On trips in June, snow is a slight possibility, and the rest of the summer rain is always a possibility on your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
Month
High / Low
June
71°
48°
July
79°
55°
August
78°
53°
September
69°
45°

Accommodations

Accommodations

BACKCOUNTRY SLEEPING

TENT CAMPING

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and synthetic-fill sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

BACKCOUNTRY CUISINE

FRESH & DELICIOUS

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

AMAZING CAMPSITES

IN THE ACTION

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

Trip Reviews

Trip Reviews

  • Average Customer Ratings:

  • 4.9 (25 reviews)
Michael R
5.0

Excellent Company

1 month ago

If you are a novice or looking to rediscover your love of hiking and backpacking, this is an excellent company. They are safe, knowledgeable, passionate, flexible, and patient. My daughter and I made memories on our trip that we could not have achieved without their guidance.

Lisa M.
5.0

Can't Go Wrong with This One

2 months ago

If you want to get away from the crowds, into the beautiful backcountry, this is a great choice! The first day is difficult, no doubt, but worth the effort. The scenery was amazing and you also get to hang out with like-minded travelers who quickly become new friends.

Steve C.
5.0

Love this Trip

3 months ago

Loved this trip. Magnificent experience I was able to enjoy with my teenage son and a really fantastic group of people for our 4-day trek to Thunder Lake!

See All Guest Reviews!

Go to our reviews page

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