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Reviews > Books > Trail Guides > RMNP- The Complete Hiking Guide > Owner Review by John Waters

Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide

June 24, 2009


NAME: John R. Waters
AGE: 60
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)
CHEST: 43 in (109 cm)
WAIST: 38 in (97 cm)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


Author: Lisa Foster, Text and Photography
Publisher: Westcliffe Publishers,
a division of Big Earth Publishing
Year Copywrite: 2005, 2008
Publisher's Website:
ISBN: 978-1565795501 :

Paperback: 385 pages, including appendix and charts
(400 pages with index)
Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
Measured Weight: 26 oz (376 g)
MSRP: US $27.95

Other details: (from Publisher's website)
Book Cover
Picture Courtesy of Publisher

"The complete experience of hiking Rocky Mountain National Park has finally been captured in one comprehensive volume. All 400 named features in the Park are explored and two-thirds of this book covers off-trail hikes not commonly found in guidebooks. Extensively field-checked and accompanied by striking photography and USGS maps, this amazing collection draws upon Foster's over 7,000 hours of backcountry expertise. From casual strolls to class 4 climbing, no other book has tackled the entire park in such an in-depth and exciting way."


Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide is a book richly illustrated with gorgeous photographs taken by the author and carefully, clearly, detailed topographical maps throughout the book. It is not, however, just a pretty face, a coffee table book to be admired. It is a valuable planning resource for hikers, for me.

The Guide starts out with the usual Dedication, Acknowledgements and Preface but dives right in with the Introduction. There the author takes the time to list and explain the hazards and precautions that are inherent in hiking and backpacking in the high altitude that is the Rocky Mountain National Park (or RMNP for short). Once safety concerns are out of the way a short "How to Use This Guide" provides keys to the various icons and maps used throughout the Guide as well as the definitions of trail ratings and classes. Then it's on to the 8 different Regions.

Regions covered in the guide are divided by geographically into 8 sections:

Region 1: East Side Central
Region 2: Mummy Range
Region 3: Wild Basin
Region 4: Longs Peak Group
Region 5: Eastern Perimeter
Region 6: West Side Central
Region 7: Southwest Corner
Region 8: Never Summer Mountains

Each section averages 30 - 40 pages or so, except for the East Side Central and Mummy Range sections which having more established trails are 60 to 80 pages.

The number of trails in each section varies, of course. There are at least a dozen or more detailed in each region though. On a recent trip to RMNP, since we were going to be based in Fraser, Colorado we decided to concentrate on in the Southwest Corner and the West Side Central (regions 7 & 6).

The layout of each of the region sections is consistent throughout the Guide. Each region has a color code which borders the top edge of each page in that section. So it is immediately evident where the region begins and where it ends even with the Guide closed. At the beginning of each region is a section index of sub regions with highlighted hiking destinations and their corresponding page numbers. There are also icons designating hikes for families and people with disabilities next to the appropriate trails

At the end of each region section are directions for each of the trailheads in the region as well as directions for each trail. To round out the region's information, the author includes "Other Points of Interest".

Within each sub region, information for each trail includes a general description of the area, then the trail itself complete with access icons (family/handicap/biking, etc.), elevation, the vegetation, possible wildlife and more. There is also a reference to the appropriate map page at the beginning of each trail description. Any mention of any other nearby or intersecting trail is immediately followed by the corresponding map page in parenthesis. Mileage is given between various waypoints. The actual trails are then listed at the end of each section for easy viewing.

We used this book for planning 4 different hikes within RMNP - two along different sections of the Colorado River and one to Cascade Falls and the fourth, a loop trail around Monarch Lake. Trails hiked were the East Shore Trail along Shadow Mountain Lake (7 m/11 km round-trip), the Colorado River Trail (5.5 m/9 km round-trip), the North Inlet Trail to Cascade Falls (7 mi/11 km round-trip), and Monarch Lake Loop Trail (7 mi/11 km round-trip).

I found the information in the Guide to be accurate, concise and useful for planning purposes. There was no way I could or would even consider carrying the book along with me due to the size and weight, so I was forced to remember what I had read and rely on that, not always a good thing. Fortunately, the trails in RMNP are generally well-marked, so in conjunction with my GPS there wasn't much chance we would get lost. The value in the Guide is in the supplemental natural and cultural information of the trails and the regions they traverse I think. That coupled with the statistics of the trails - distance, difficulty level, etc. not only helped us decide which trail to take but also enhanced out knowledge as well.

On the Shadow Mountain Lake Trail;
3 generations on Shadow Mountain Lake Trail
On the Colorado River Trail
On the Colorado River Trail


My wife bought this book when we were planning a one-week snowshoe vacation on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park early this May. In past years, we have hiked extensively in the eastern half of RMNP, but the west side was a mystery waiting to be unveiled.

The Complete Hiking Guide did a great job of dispelling any uncertainty about the trails we eventually chose by giving us clear and accurate information for planning. This knowledge gave us the freedom to concentrate on our beautiful surroundings instead of spending all our time thinking about where we were.

Initially, I was a bit put off by the size of book. It certainly doesn't fit comfortably in any of my field vest pockets. After using the book, while that is still certainly true, it has earned a permanent spot on our guide book shelf where we will use it for planning all future treks in old Rocky.

John R. Waters


1.) Thoroughness of the directions and trail descriptions.
2.) Accuracy of the directions
3.) Clarity of the topographical maps.


1.) Really too heavy to practically carry with me on overnight or day hikes.
2.) Requires really too much flipping back and forth between pages from the descriptions of the trail to the trail particulars at the end of each section.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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