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Thread: Newbie eyeing Flattop -- any pointers?

  1. #1
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    Default Newbie eyeing Flattop -- any pointers?

    Hi! I'm new to the forum so bear with me...
    I've been looking at hiking Flattop for years as my parents would never go with me. I live just down the street from the mountain and its accessibility makes it unbearably tempting.

    However, I have no hiking experience, and want to make sure I'm not getting in over my head. I have some questions that maybe other members could help me with:

    • About how long is the trip up the mountain?
    • Is the trail dangerous for beginners?
    • What should I take with me? Would I need to buy any special equipment?
    • I'm kind of sparse on friends ... would hiking alone be a foolhardy venture? Where could I find groups to join that are hiking Flattop?
    • I know its bear country up there, would I do fine wearing bells and taking pepper spray? (I read the threads on bear protection)
    • Is this trail physically demanding? I'm in fair shape as I do some swimming, but I generally spend too much time sitting at home.

    Any other suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Flattop is a good place to start your hiking/climbing career, as it is a well-marked trail with lots of people in case anything were to go wrong. A few answers:

    -Give yourself 3-4 hours round trip. That is probably more than you'll need, but there is no sense in rushing things.

    -The trail is steep at points, but generally not dangerous. You could slip and bang yourself up on rocks, but there is no real danger of a serious fall. Follow the main trail and you should be fine.

    -Bring plenty of water and wear decent shoes. If it's not perfectly clear, also carry a lightweight wind/waterproof jacket, as you don't want to be caught up there unprepared in a sudden wind or rainstorm.

    -Hiking Flattop alone would be fine, as there are always others up there. If you want to find others going, I think the Daily News lists a hiking group in their Sunday Outdoors section.

    -Bear bells and bear spray would be fine. Honestly, I don't carry anything when going up Flattop, but you're right that there are bears in the area and it would probably be wise to carry something.

    -It's not as easy physically as some make it out to be, but it's not going to kill you either. Go slowly, rest often, and you'll be fine. You'll get sweaty and find yourself out of breath, but that's part of the fun.

    Enjoy!

  3. #3
    Member Flintlock's Avatar
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    To answer some of your questions, I would say that it totally depends on your pace, fitness level, and whether or not you like to stare out at the views.. Tons of people hike Flattop everyday in summer. You will not likely be alone, particularly during nice weather days. I go alone all-the-time and run the whole thing, up and down in about 50 minutes total and I am not a superior athlete or anything. However, the first time going without knowing the trail and all, I would agree with Brian and budget a few hours. If you have concerns about anything while on site, just follow others.

    The trickiest parts are near the summit but it is not that bad at all. Dogs and kids climb up without difficulty. Give it a go, you'll enjoy it. It offers great views and a good place to rest and have a picnic at the top.

  4. #4
    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    I have gone up once this last winter...had to bust through 2-3 foot snow drifts in some spots, but I enjoyed the hike. From the parking lot there is a stairwell that leads to a very wide trail. The trail forks left and right around Blueberry Hill. I went right going up and came back the other way. On the backside of BB Hill there is a draw that you are encouraged to stay to the right on, and that is the way I went. There is a slight uphill traverse to a large trail with a couple of benches and large steps until you get to a small plateau. At this point you can go literally straight up, follow the zigzag trail on the left, or I have been told traverse far to the right and come up on the top from the south. Fun and beautiful trip, I just wish I had my camera that day. It took me about 45 minutes to get to the top, but a couple I met on the way (more than 1/2 my age) took 3 hours to go the same distance. Enjoy!
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

  5. #5
    Member 8x57 Mauser's Avatar
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    Default Not much to add

    Only things I haven't seen mentioned:

    Bring an extra snack. In the unlikely event you stub your toe, you'll want more than your sack lunch.

    The cellphone coverage up there is weak, but it's enough that a cellphone is all the emergency gear you need.

    Near the top, the well-worn gravel & dirt gives way to rocks. At this point he trail is marked by orange or green dots spray painted on the rock. They're about 2-3 inches across. If you're not in a crowd of people who know the way, the dots will show you where to go. This is not technical "rock climbing" by any stretch, and as Brian said, good shoes and basic caution are all you'll need.

    There are so many people on that trail in decent weather that I've never carried anything for bear protection either. In the extremely unlikely event you find yourself totally alone, clap your hands every minute or so to let the critters know you're there.

  6. #6
    Member DRDAVE8's Avatar
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    Its A Piece Of Cake My 6 Year Old Son Has Hiked It No Prob. Bring A Lunch And Have A Nice Little Picnik ............

  7. #7
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    My wife and I hiked it last week with our 2 boys, 8 & 11, and our lab. The last push to the summit can be a little steep but the dog made it with no assistance. It's hard to leave the top on a nice sunny day.

    Next time up I think we'll try the access from the southside off Upper DeArmoun / Canyon. It looks like it would be about 2/3rd's the distance.

  8. #8
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    We hiked flat top Sunday morning from the southside. The 1st 2/3rd's of the trail is definitely steeper and less "improved" than the approach from Glenn Alps. The last 1/3rd is easier with a gradual climb to the top without the hand over foot required from the Glenn Alps side.

    Easier way to the top = Glenn Alps

    Less traffic and more of a workout = Canyon Rd. trailhead.

  9. #9

    Default no bear bells (dinner bells)

    I am not the expert on bear bells but recently watched the required backcountry access video for Denali Wilderness park and bells are specifically NOT recommended. Also read the bear safety recommendations from U.S. Parks rangers at Wrengel St Elias, bells specifically NOT recommended. Both cases suggest loud human voice to avoid surprising bears, you know the rest of the story.

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