Onahu Creek Trail to Long Meadows, Onahu Creek Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Onahu Creek Trail to Long Meadows - 8.9 miles
Onahu Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,792' - 10,220' (10,220' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,428' net elevation gain (+2,092' total roundtrip gain)|
Onahu Creek Trail to Long Meadows - 8.9 Miles Round-Trip
The Onahu Creek Trail joins the unmaintained Long Meadows Trail to form a varied x-country route to the south edge of Long Meadows. This two mile meadow system is lightly traveled but rife with wildlife, particularly elk and moose. Visitors will enjoy rare solitude and excellent wildlife viewing on the hike to Long Meadows.
It's worth noting that park signs and various maps differ on the length of unimproved travel, as well the exact route (see more in Worth Noting below). Regardless, hikers should anticipate several miles of x-country travel on uneven terrain and plan travel time accordingly:
The Onahu Creek Trail heads NE on a moderate grade in a tall lodgepole forest. It crosses Onahu Creek at 1.35 miles (9,240') and closely follows it much of the way to the Long Meadows Trail. Note the introduction of spruce and fir as you climb higher.
You'll cross Onahu Creek again just before reaching the Long Meadows Trail split (2.8 miles : 9,630'), where a sign points north and indicates that 1.6 miles of unimproved conditions lie ahead. Good navigational instincts and a fair amount of athleticism are now required.
Steep terrain, stream crossings, deadfall, boulders and an absence of trail markings make travel difficult. While the upper trail is quite easy to follow, the first few hundred yards are challenging from a navigational standpoint.
The faint route can be covered with snow well into summer, stream crossings are unaided, and well-worn animal tracks can lead off-course.
Just past the split for Long Meadows, bear left on the west edge of a small marshy meadow - the trail is very faint here. This will lead to the stream where an old footbridge - currently defunct and impassable - indicates a good spot to cross and pick up the trail again.
If you travel straight through and / or along the marsh's eastern edge, you will eventually cross the same stream and have a similar challenge of regaining the trail once across.
Regardless of your route, understanding where the trail is generally heading will likely place you back on it. This is part of the fun! The trail is notably easier to follow as you climb higher.
The final .3+ miles travel up switchbacks on a steep, south-facing slope. This is an especially pretty stretch of forest. The trail levels out just over a ridge on the edge of a small pond, around which you can travel in either direction. Long Meadows is just north of this pond.
Timber gives way to open space on the southernmost edge of Long Meadows (4.45 miles : 10,220'). Signs of moose and elk are virtually everywhere, and the vast open space makes wildlife spotting quite easy. Explore the meadow to fully appreciate its size, and improve your chance of seeing wildlife.
- Map sources and Park signs can't seem to agree on the Onahu Creek Trail and Long Meadows Trail distances. Reliable, cross-referenced research shows the Onahu Creek Trail segment to be 2.8 miles, and the unimproved Long Meadows Trail to be approximately 1.6 miles. This latter figure is significant, as some maps suggest the trail is only .8 miles. Park signs corroborate the 1.6 distance. This is extremely important, as you should not under-estimate this difficult and potentially disorienting section.
- Various maps depict the Long Meadows Trail's exact route quite differently, most notably with respect to stream crossings. It's advisable to get the most updated map possible, and contact a ranger to discuss potential discrepancies and challenges.
- Moose, elk and deer inhabit this area of the Park, and are frequently seen. Moose can be aggressive, especially during mating season. Enjoy all wildlife from a distance.
Directions to Trailhead
From Boulder, head North on 36 through the town of Lyons. Continue on 36 towards Estes Park. Follow 36 all the way into Estes Park. Look for Rocky Mountain National Park signs and follow 36 directly to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Proceed straight and follow the signs to Trail Ridge Road, a scenic drive that travels over the Continental Divide and onto the west side of the park. The Onahu Creek Trailhead is on the left (east) side of the road, just about 3 miles after the road flattens out on the west side of the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park