Lisa Foster's guidebook notes 3 different approaches to access Mount Julian. The first (most direct) starts at the Rock Cut Parking Area on Trail Ridge Road and descends steeply (loss of 2,200 feet) into Forest Canyon, crosses the Big Thompson River, and tromps back up into the Gorge Lakes valley to Doughnut Lake (gain of 1,300 feet). According to Google Earth, it appears to be 3.5 miles one way, though it is mostly bushwacking and sounds pretty gnarly.
The second approach (recommended) starts at Milner Pass on the west side of the park and follows a trail 4.2 miles to 12,400 feet, still half a mile below the summit of Mount Ida. Follow a NE-angling ridge line (this will be on your left) to a prominent saddle, then descend south down steep tundra and some loose rock (3rd class) aiming for Azure Lake. Once below the steep scrambling, turn east (left) and make a descending traverse towards Inkwell Lake's outlet stream. Cross the outlet stream and go straight east over a ridge and drop down to Doughnut Lake (11,262 feet). This route is 5.5 miles one way and has moderately involved off-trail navigation and boulder hopping after beginning the descent into Gorge Lakes. Still, it is most likely quicker and much more enjoyable than the Rock Cut approach.
A third option begins from Forest Canyon Pass. Apparently it is riddled with wet marsh crossings and has tricky route finding.
Finally, there is a variation to reach Mount Julian from Mount Ida that involves traversing the Circle Peaks. After hiking 4.2 miles from the trailhead and reaching the ridge junction below Mount Ida's summit, continue up to the summit of Mount Ida, then on to Chief Cheley, and Cracktop. The Cracktop/Julian ridge is the crux of this variation and involves exposed 3rd-4th class scrambling with careful routefinding. Skirt around the summit cone of Mount Julian and arrive at the saddle between Julian and Terra Tomah. Total mileage of this traverse is 2.5 miles and you avoid dropping all the way into the Gorge Lakes valley, but you still must deal with the Cracktop/Julian ridge which should not be underestimated. One could potentially leave packs near the saddle, descend to the base of the route, then climb back up to your packs. However reversing the Circle Peaks to get back to the trailhead is a risky option considering the likely afternoon storms and the difficulty of retreat from the ridge.
All things considered, Mount Julian has an involved approach that gives a great sense of adventure whichever route you choose. I personally do not recommend venturing into this arena of chaos without a VERY promising weather forecast: the lengthy ridgewalk down the flanks of Mount Ida is a dangerous place to be in the afternoon.
Mount Julian (12,928 feet) is the highest peak in a group of mountains commonly known as the "Circle Peaks". It has an impressive N-NW face composed of several buttresses that offer many options for multi-pitch rock climbs. Perched above Doughnut Lake, this wall sits in a gorgeous setting and offers sweet views, though it does not receive any sun until afternoon. The Gorge Lakes valley is a unique area of RMNP that is easily seen from Trail Ridge Road but is not easily accessible.
3 Total Routes
['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',1],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]
Featured Route For Mount Julian
Pastries of Unusual Girth 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b CO
: Alpine Rock
: ... : Mount Julian
This route is on the "Slab of Pie", the large flatiron-like slab 2 buttresses left of Donut Buttress (this is actually on Terra Tomah). On the left side of the slab, locate a prominent grassy crack system that starts about a pitch off the ground and runs straight up for approximately 100 feet. P1 starts below and slightly right of this crack.P1 - 5.7 (200 feet) Climb up a moderate slab on white rock for about 50 feet until confronted with a bulge. Place some mediocre gear in a flake out left, th...[more] Browse More Classics in CO
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