Colorado, Colorado 13ers, Colorado Hikes, Colorado Summits, Rocky Mountain National Park, US National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes: CCY Route

The CCY Route – named for the three sequential summits of Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita, and Ypsilon Mountain – is a pretty but challenging hike in the lesser-traveled Mummy Range of Rocky. Completing this hike means that you’ll bag three summits in one day. However, to do so you have to climb up and over and down the 12,454 foot (3796 m) Mount Chapin and 13,069 foot (3983 m) Mount Chiquita to reach the 13,514 foot (4119 m) summit of Ypsilon Mountain. It’s not an easy undertaking.

Mount Chapin (just left of center), Mount Chiquita (just right of center), and Ypsilon Mountain (right) as seen from the mouth of Fall River Canyon

We didn’t actually complete this hike all at once. Our first attempt, in August 2019, ended with summiting only Mount Chapin. Pat and I were battling ridiculous winds and flakes of snow were falling from the sky (yep, we got snowed on in August) and we just didn’t have the energy or motivation to push through the weather and summit two more mountains. But that was okay. It was still a beautiful hike, and we knew we could return another time and bypass Mount Chapin to summit Chiquita and Ypsilon.

It took three years… but that’s exactly what we did. In August 2022, Pat and I had campground reservations in Rocky for the weekend with the goal of completing this hike. About two weeks beforehand, Savannah invited herself and her husband along (we frequently invite ourselves on hikes with each other, so I didn’t mind at all). And so at about 7:00am Saturday morning, the four of us were headed up the Chapin Creek Trail.

The path begins at Chapin Creek Trailhead on Old Fall River Road. This is a sharply curved dirt road that, in good weather, can be driven by pretty much any car… assuming it’s open. Annual opening and closing dates depend on snowfall, but in general the road opens at the beginning of July and closes in early October. That leaves a fairly short season for this hike. And, as we’d learned the first time around, just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it’s a nice day to be on top of a mountain.

This hike is steep from the first step, gaining 1460 feet (445 m) of elevation in the 1.9 miles (3.1 km) up to Mount Chapin. Because of the high starting elevation, we emerged from the trees fairly quickly. With the tundra came wildflowers and views but also wind. Constant wind. We pushed through en route to the saddle between Chapin and Chiquita. At this point, a vague trail turns right and heads up Chapin. For the most part, this was less of a trail and more of a rock hop up to the summit.

Looking down at Chapin Creek Trail
On the summit of Chapin
Don’t be fooled by the blue skies in the previous photo… behind me was this incoming snowstorm that forced us to turn around

From the summit of Chapin, the trail backtracks to the saddle and then continues to Mount Chiquita. Because we were bypassing Chapin on our second hike, we simply arrived at the saddle and headed straight for Chiquita. We immediately found ourselves navigating rocks. Piles and piles of rocks. Honestly, most of the climb up both Chiquita and Ypsilon was defined by rocks. They were uneven and slanted and sometimes loose. My feet and ankles did not enjoy it at all. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and after another 1 mile (1.6 km) and 800 vertical feet (245 m) of steadily climbing, we reached the summit of Mount Chiquita at 13,069 feet (3983 m).

Chiquita (center) and Ypsilon (left) as seen from the side of Mount Chapin

From the summit, we could see back to Mount Chapin. Beyond were 14er Longs Peak and the towering peaks of the Continental Divide as it cuts through the heart of Rocky. North and west were the Never Summer Mountains, an area we’ve largely failed to explore. Down below was Ypsilon Lake and the Fall River Valley. And rising to the north was Ypsilon Mountain… our next destination.

Summit views from Mount Chiquita
Ypsilon Mountain, as seen from Chiquita

After about 15 minutes on the summit, we began the descent to the saddle between Chiquita and Ypsilon. There wasn’t a very clearly defined path – this trail is not maintained by the park – so it was kind of a choose-your-own-adventure. The saddle sits at an elevation of about 12,800 feet (3900 m)… roughly 250 feet (75 m) below the summit of Chiquita and 650 feet (200 m) below the summit of Ypsilon. We had quite a bit of climbing ahead of us.

You can’t see the summit from the saddle, and as we began our ascent, we kept generally toward the right side of the mountain. At one point we encountered three gentlemen headed down who (thankfully) informed us that we were headed to a false summit and needed to angle much further to the left. We did, and even managed to stumble across something resembling a trail at times. Even so, it was a long slog to the 13,514 foot (4119 m) summit. The ridge of Ypsilon is long and I kept thinking we were getting close only to crest a high point and find myself staring at another one off in the distance. It was deceptive.

As much as I disliked the endless rocks we had to navigate to reach Ypsilon, the views from this summit were better than from Chiquita. Looking south and west over Rocky, the view was similar. But Lawn and Crystal Lakes were now visible to the north. And right below the jagged ridge of Ypsilon Mountain was the highlight for me: Spectacle Lakes. Hiking to these secluded alpine lakes has been on my to-do list for a while, and after seeing them from above, I’m even more enthused about them.

Views from the Ypsilon summit
Spectacle Lakes as seen from the Ypsilon summit

But a hike to Spectacle Lakes will have to wait for another day; for now, we had a long rocky descent ahead of us. Fortunately, we didn’t have to re-summit Chiquita. There’s a trail that cuts across the west slope of the mountain. Sort of. Descending Ypsilon was once again somewhat of a free for all. There wasn’t a clear path. But eventually, near the Ypsilon-Chiquita saddle, we caught up with a faint path. From here, we were largely able to follow it all the way back to the Chapin-Chiquita saddle and the main trail. And then back to the car, stopping to view a few large male elk along the way.

Descending Ypsilon and heading across the side of Mount Chiquita
Almost back to the Chapin-Chiquita saddle… and the trail

It only took three years and two attempts… but I’m pleased to say we’ve finally stood atop all three summits of the CCY Route!

The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Chapin Creek Trailhead is located about 9 miles (14.5 km) up Old Fall River Road. This is a one-way (uphill only) unpaved road that is only open from about July-early October each year. Check before heading out to ensure it is open. In good weather, any car should be able to make it. As you approach the trailhead and begin to see parked cars, take the first empty spot you see. Since it’s a one-way road, if there are no available spots you’ll end up having to go pretty far past the trailhead to find more parking.
  • Fees and passes: there is a $25/car daily or $35/car weekly entrance fee to RMNP; interagency annual passes are accepted. From May-Oct, if you arrive after 9am you will also need a timed entry permit to access this trailhead
  • Hiking: if summiting all 3 peaks in the same day, roundtrip distance will be about 9 miles (14.5 km) with 3250 feet (990 m) of elevation gain; this is a strenuous hike that requires acclimation, stamina, and route-finding
  • Where to stay: there are 5 campgrounds in the park and dozens of lodging options just outside in Grand Lake and Estes Park; while backpacking (permit required) is also an option for many parts of the park, there are no backcountry sites on this trail
  • Other: as mentioned above, the majority of this hike is through the tundra with absolutely no shelter from the elements, so pay very close attention to the weather and be prepared to turn around if storms approach

25 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes: CCY Route”

  1. Sounds like an intense hike with all the ups and downs, rocks, and having to choose your own path sometimes. I’m sure it felt very rewarding to complete this hike, especially after a failed attempt because of the elements. Who would have thought there would be snow in August!?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simply stunning countryside. When I look at it, I can’t help but think about the first white explorers and what they would have thought trying to cross this country. No doubt the local Native American people would have taken it all in their stride. Beautiful! Mel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t even imagine seeing those mountains appear on the horizon and then coming closer and realizing you had to cross them… but with no idea what route was best. I might give up haha!

      Liked by 1 person

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