A trail runner is missing in Rocky Mountain National Park – here's what we know so far

A lake in Rocky Mountain National park at sunset
Search efforts are in their fourth day as rescuers look for clues of the missing runner (Image credit: Brad McGinley Photography)

A team of dozens of search and rescue members are scouring Rocky Mountain National Park after a runner was reported overdue. Chad Pallansch, 49, of Fort Collins started out from the East Inlet Trailhead near Grand Lake on Wednesday and was reported missing the following day. Park rangers confirmed his truck was still parked at the trailhead.

According to a news release by the National Parks Service, teams are searching the Boulder Grand Pass, Mount Alice, McHenry’s Peak, Arrowhead, Stoneman Pass, Chiefs Head Peak, Thatchtop, Powell Peak and Andrews Glacier areas. Crews are searching on foot, by air and with a heat sensing fixed-wing flight, however winds at high elevations have been hampering search operations. Though overnight lows are dropping below freezing now in the park, there is no rain or snow forecast for the coming week.

Pallansch is 5’7” tall and weighs 155 lbs, with brown hair and blue eyes. He is thought to be wearing a black ultralight running jacket, black running shorts or leggings and a grey fanny pack. He had a navigation device, but it was not designed for emergency assistance.

Pallansch's reported itinerary involved a 28-mile route which included running on both established trails and off-trail scree slopes as well as crossing the Continental Divide. His route may have taken him through Lake Verna, Mount Alice, Chiefs Head Peak, Black Lake, Mills Lake and Flattop Mountain. This was to be his first time attempting this route, but it is believed that Pallansch is an experienced trail runner and is no stranger to running in the park – he has reportedly run Longs Peak, a Colorado 14er, more than 30 times.

If you have information that could help investigators, may have seen Pallansch, or if you were in the areas listed above on September 27, please contact the NPS. Call the National Park Service Investigative Services Bureau Tip Line at 888-653-0009, submit an online form at go.NPS.gov/SubmitATip or email nps_isb@nps.gov. 

An overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park

Pallansch's reported itinerary involved a 28-mile route which included running on both established trails and off-trail scree slopes (Image credit: Gestalt Imagery / 500px)

Backcountry survival tips for trail running in Colorado

Several trail runners have disappeared without a trace in Colorado's backcountry in recent years. Readers are reminded to trip plan, train for high altitude, and take the essentials:

  • Electrolytes and energy bars
  • Trail running sunglasses
  • Running headlamp
  • Emergency bivy sack
  • Minimalist first-aid kit focused on items to stop bleeding, but also has meds and other minor ailment treatments such as moleskin
  • Folding camping knife
  • Fire starter
  • Map and compass
  • Two-way communications devices such as the Garmin InReach
  • Battery pack with appropriate cables for electronic devices
  • Wool or synthetic running gloves
  • Wool skull cap/hat
  • Soft water bottles and water filter
  • Phone with offline mapping app
  • Lightweight waterproof breathable shell jacket
  • 12-liter running vest
  • Mid-layer micro-puffy jacket for runs that will take you high or deep or when weather dictates need for extra warmth

Learn more in our article with backcountry survival tips for trail running in Colorado.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.