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Pear Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Pear Lake is a great destination for solitude, fishing, and mountain views. It's a 6.5 mile, demanding hike through some of the best wildflower country in Rocky Mountain National Park. After passing Finch Lake, the trail makes its way to the higher, Pear Lake where Copeland Mountain appears to shoot straight from its shores into the sky. Explore the full Pear Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Pear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Pear Lake

The hike to Pear Lake begins at the the Finch Lake Trailhead, located approximately 1/5th of a mile east of the larger Wild Basin Trailhead near Allenspark, Colorado. Because there is very limited parking at the Finch Lake Trailhead, most hikers will need to park at the Wild Basin Trailhead and add the 1000' feet of trail between the Wild Basin Trailhead and the Finch Lake Trailhead to their journey. There is an alternative approach via the Allenspark Trailhead. However, the route described in this trail profile will be from the Finch Lake Trailhead nearest to the Wild Basin Trailhead.

The Hike: Pear Lake Trail in RMNP

The hike up to Pear Lake is a steady climb through a forest of pine, aspen, spruce, and meadows laden with wildflowers. It's a demanding hike from the outset, coursing up a set of switchbacks to gain the ridge of a lateral moraine. After this initial east bearing segment, the trail turns back to the west begins a gentle descent through one of Rocky Mountain National Park's most stunning displays of wildflowers. Near the bottom of the moraine, near Fox Creek, the trail encounters its first junction. The the trail to the right/west leads towards both Finch and Pear lakes (the left/east trail leads to the Allenspark Trailhead). Climbing higher, the trail will pass an overlook with views of the distant mountain peaks of Pagoda, Meeker, and Chief's Head, as well as views of the greater Wild Basin area.

The next trail junction--at approx. 2.5 miles--has been named "Confusion Junction" because of its power to confound hikers. Pause and study the trail signage in order to choose the correct trail. The correct way is the trail labeled "Pear Lake" and/or "Finch Lake."

After approximately 1/4 mile, the trail passes through a burn area from the 1978 fire, which has made a good recovery and is now riddled with summer wildflowers. Continuing to work uphill, the trail makes several stream crossings before a descent to Finch lake, which begins at 3.8 miles. Then, at approximately 4.25 miles, the trail makes a hard right-turn. This part of the trail is often obscured by snow as late as as midsummer and early as the first signs of autumn.

At Finch Lake the trail wraps around the eastern edge, then the northern shore of the lake. The next segment of trail, from Finch Lake to Pear Lake is approximately 2 miles. These are steep and demanding. Winter snows last into the early months of summer. July brings an incredible display of wildflowers in both the forest and meadows, and the abundance of moisture and vegetation makes this broad valley a great place for viewing wildlife.

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The Rushing Stream of Pear Creek

At approximately 6 miles, the trail will cross pear creek. The forest then gives way to rock and eventually to Pear Lake. Pear Lake is enclosed by a ring of rock and mountain. The rugged rock and cliffs of Copeland Mountain come down to meet the northwestern shores. In the early hours of morning, the images Copeland Mountain and Ouzel peak can be seen mirrored in the lake.

Pear Lake is a great place to fish and is catch and release only. A fishing license is required and State and Park fishing regulations apply. There are two campsites near Pear Lake: Pear Creek (just below the lake), and Pear Lake Campsite. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. Because this is such an extensive hike (13 miles roundtrip), camping may be a good option if you want to fish or explore the surrounding area.

Further exploration can be made of the Cony Creek drainage where a series of paternoster lakes lead up to the highest lake, Cony Lake. This area does not have maintained trails and requires hikers to have well-developed backcountry land navigation skills.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Pear Lake in RMNP

  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Fuel Your Body: It's a long and very demanding hike, so be sure to bring plenty of water and food for the trip.
  • Get there early: Parking lot might get full even early in the morning.
  • You’re in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, dispose of your food responsibly, and don’t food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
  • Trekking Poles: For most hikes in RMNP, especially if you are traveling on unmaintained trails, we recommend using Trekking Poles. They take a lot of weight off the knees and help in navigating uneven terrain.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Shea Oliver for sharing such amazing photographs of this hike to Pear Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria

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Lawn Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park follows the course of the Roaring River for 6.2 miles to a stunning high mountain lake with great fishing. This demanding hike takes adventurers into the heart of the Mummy Range, a lesser visited region of RMNP. Explore the full Lawn Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lawn Lake

The hike to Lawn Lake begins at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Several other destinations in this lesser visited section of RMNP known as the Mummy Range, can be accessed from the Lawn Lake Trailhead, including Ypsilon Lake, Ypsilon Falls, Chipmunk Lake, and the Spectacle Lakes. The parking area is located on Old Fall River Road, just north of the intersection of Old Fall River Road and Highway 34.

The Hike: Lawn Lake Trail in RMNP

The hike begins on a 1.4 mile stretch of the Lawn Lake trail before the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. This initial segment climbs a series of switchbacks. While it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks, they are there for a couple important purposes: to control erosion and to preserve your energy. Because this area of the park has been severely damaged by floods, it’s all the more important to stay the trail.

At approximately 1.4 miles, the Lawn Lake Trail meets with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. See the full trail profiles for Ypsilon Lake and Ypsilon Falls for exploring these destinations. At the junction, the way to the Lake passes by this junction, continuing straight/North on the Lawn Lake Trail
Here, the trail comes quite close to the gorge that overlooks Roariing River. There are areas of unstable terrain and hikers should take caution and stay away from the precarious edges of the gorge.

The trail begins a demanding climb up a series of switchbacks then returns to follow river. Three backcountry camping sites are located in this stretch, just after the confluence of Roaring River and Ypsilon Creek: Ypsilon Creek, Cutbank, and Golden Banner. At 5.6 miles, the Lawn Lake Trail meets up with the Black Canyon Trail. Here, the way to the Lake is left/North, and should be clearly marked by a sign at the junction. The Lake is about 1/2 a mile further up the trail.

There is another backcountry camping site at the Lake. This site and the others along the Lawn Lake trail can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. Greenback Cutthroat trout are plenty in the Lake, so this makes for a great fly fishing destination in Rocky Mountain National Park. A fishing license is required and State and Park fishing regulations apply.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lawn Lake in RMNP

  • Explore More: Crystal Lake is just about 1.5 mi further. You may opt to continue if you have energy to spare.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Camping Site, and provides topo information.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Chad Bowman for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Lawn Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Ouzel Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Ouzel Lake is nestled in an expansive valley in the Wild Basin, and is one of the better fishing destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a moderate, 4.9 mile, creekside hike that passes several beautiful cascade waterfalls, including one of our favorites, Ouzel Falls. Combine the hike to Ouzel Lake with an overnight, and a journey to the shores Bluebird Lake. Explore the full Ouzel Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ouzel Lake

The southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the loveliest portions in the park known as the Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located just 15 minutes outside of Allenspark, Colorado along Highway 115. There is a ranger station at at the Wild Basin Trailhead with toilets and drinking water available.

In the winter (October-May), Hwy 115 may not be plowed to the trailhead, and hikers will need to park their vehicles at a winter parking lot for Wild Basin hikes. Be aware that hikes from the winter parking lot add on another 3 miles of hiking (one-way). There are other small parking areas, like the Finch Lake Trailhead, that may be accessible and allow hikers to park closer to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It's important to know that Hwy 115, though titled a "highway", is a maintained dirt road, which means that it can be used by 2WD vehicles. However, after heavy rains and other severe weather, its quality may degrade until it is repaired. 4WD may be needed when snow is on the ground.

The Hike: Ouzel Lake Trail in RMNP

It's 4.9 miles one-way to Ouzel Lake. The trail begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and takes hikers through the central area of the Wild Basin, past three cascade waterfalls: Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.

The first waterfall, Copeland Falls, is just 0.4 mile into the hike on this first, easy segment of trail. For details on accessing both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls, check out our full trail profile for Copeland Falls.

The path follows North Saint Vrain Creek until it encounters a first trail junction. The trail to the right leads past a series of backcountry campsites. These are reservable through the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness offices and make for a great place to stay for longer adventures into the Wild Basin area. The left-hand trail is the correct way towards the Bluebird Lake trail system and Ouzel Lake.

Having taken the left-hand trail, hikers cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Pause when you hear the sounds of an unnamed cascade that can be viewed from the bridge area. Soon after the bridge, the trail meets with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. Taking the right-hand trail, the cascades (named after the purple orchids that grow along the creek) come into view. The path crosses a second bridge at 1.8 miles, then things begin to get more challenging, as the trail weaves through a set of switchbacks to Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles.

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Ouzel Falls on a Wet Spring Day - Courtesy of Chris Heald

After about 0.4 mile past Ouzel Falls, the trail comes to a junction with the Bluebird Lake trail, 3.1 miles into the hike. The way to Ouzel Lake takes the Bluebird Trail (left). This final 1.8 segment of the hike to Ouzel Lake gains a ridgeline and becomes more demanding. It's a desolate segment of trail, charred by a fire in 1978. However, wildflowers make their way up through the barren landscape, and the surrounding mountain peaks come into full view due to the few trees left by the burn.

At 4.5 miles, there is a marked trail spur that leads to Ouzel Lake, bending its way around a small pond to Ouzel's northwestern shore. At the lake, you'll find more trees and a lot of marshland--and marsh = mosquitos, so be sure to bring repellant. If you are looking to try some deet-free repellant, we have had some great luck with a lemon-ecualyptus repellant made by repel. The fishing up at Ouzel Lake is great! Of course, a Colorado State fishing license is required.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ouzel Lake in RMNP

  • Camp + Hike + Fish: Reserve one of the two backcountry camping sites along the Bluebird Trail to spend some time fishing Ouzel Lake and exploring the other destinations along the trail: Bluebird Lake, a waterfall between them, Lark Pond, and Pipit Lake. Contact the RMNP Wilderness Offices to reserve a site.
  • Summer Thunderstorms: If you see clouds with dark undersides building in the west, this means that thunderstorms are likely--a typical occurrence on most summer days. Begin hikes early to avoid storms and consider turning back if weather looks threatening.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • You're in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, and dispose of your food responsibly.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Food Storage: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight. Backcountry campers are required to use bear resistant food containers.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ed Ogle for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ouzel Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Sandbeach Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Sandbeach Lake features great fishing and a beach! The lake got its name from its sandy shore that resembles that of a beach--making it one of best camping spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a 4.5 mile moderate hike that climbs Copeland Moraine and crosses two creeks before arriving at this beautiful subalpine lake. With several reservable campsites along the way, Sandbeach Lake makes for a great initial multi-day backpacking trip for young families. Explore the full Sandbeach Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Sandbeach Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Sandbeach Lake

The Sandbeach Lake Trailhead is located off of County Road 84 near, just about 1/2 mile west from its junction with Highway 7. See the driving directions link above for the detailed route. The trailhead is across the street from the Wild Basin Lodge and Event Center. The trailhead has toilet facilities and parking capacity of about 25 cars (includes gravel side-lot).

The Hike: Sandbeach Lake Trail in RMNP

The 4.5 mile hike (one-way) to Sandbeach Lake first heads north out of the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead, then begins a moderate climb to gain the ridge of the Copeland Moraine. The trail then follows the ridgeline west until it crosses Campers Creek at 2.3 miles. Here, the trail makes a short, but sharp, bend to the the south before continuing west/northwest. At 3.3 miles, the trail crosses a second creek, Hunters Creek, then makes a steady climb to the northern shores of Sandbeach Lake.

Campsites Along the Sandbeach Lake Trail

There are several backcountry campsites along the Sandbeach Lake Trail, making the hike up to Sandbeach Lake, a great opportunity for young families and first-time backpackers who want to do their first multi-day trip. Camping permits must be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices. A basic itinerary would be to drive into the park's Wilderness Office in the late morning, grab lunch, then hike to one of the campsites listed below. For a two-night trip, families could elect to camp at one of the earlier campsites: Hole in the Wall or Campers Creek. Then, day two would be a short hike up to Sandbeach Lake, a perfect place for a second night under an expanse of stars. Day three would consist of a 4.5 mile hike out to the trailhead. Be sure to call ahead to the Wilderness Office to book your sites.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP

  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Backcountry Camping Sites, and provides topo information, too.
  • Get there early: Parking is limited. Arrive early to secure a parking spot at the trailhead.
  • You’re in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, dispose of your food responsibly, and don’t food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Reese Lloyd for sharing such great photos of this hike to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe in Allenspark, Colorado

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Ypsilon Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Ypsilon Lake is a 9-mile round-trip journey along a heavily forested trail in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. Ypsilon Lake sits in a wooded basin along the eastern slopes of Ypsilon Mountain and Mount Chiquita. On this hike, you'll enjoy views of rugged mountains and Roaring River, a waterfall, and the two lakes found at the end of the trail. Explore the full Ypsilon Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Lake

The hike to Ypsilon Lake begins at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Several other destinations in this lesser visited section of RMNP known as the Mummy Range, can be accessed from the Lawn Lake Trailhead, including Ypsilon Falls, Lawn Lake, Chipmunk Lake, and the Spectacle Lakes. The parking area is located on Old Fall River Road, just north of the intersection of Old Fall River Road and Highway 34.

The Hike: Ypsilon Lake Trail in RMNP

The hike begins on a 1.4 mile stretch of the Lawn Lake trail before the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. This initial segment climbs a series of switchbacks. While it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks, they are there for a couple important purposes: to control erosion and to preserve your energy. Because this area of the park has been severely damaged by floods, it's all the more important to stay the trail. There are areas of unstable terrain.

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Ypsilon Lake Trail - Courtesy of Marco Becerra

At 1.4 mile, the Ypsilon Lake trail junction will emerge on the left-hand side of the Lawn Lake trail. Here, the trail crosses the Roaring River--but the bridge has been washed out by a flood in the Spring of 2013. At the time of writing this trail profile (June 2016) the bridge has not been replaced. However, the river can be crossed at low water. It's easy to underestimate the hydraulic force of a river, so exercise care in crossing. If you're planning to hike to Ypsilon Lake, it's important to have a back plan, just in case you run into high water levels at the ford. Typically, the water levels are low, but both snowmelt and heavy rains can change levels quickly.

Approximately 0.5 mile after crossing the Roaring River (@ 2 miles), the trail begins a sustained climb along the ridge of a moraine. This longest segment of the hike leads through thick timber, then crests at 3.8 miles before descending to Chipmunk Lake @ 4.0 miles. The mountain peak reflections in Chipmunk Lake make this worth stopping for a photo.

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Chipmunk Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Brendan Bombaci.

There is a backcountry camping area with two individual sites just past Chimpmunk Lake at 10,640'. Camping permits can be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices. The trail from Chipmunk Lake to Ypsilon lake is just 0.5 mile, arriving at Ypsilon's western shore. Hikers who pause to listen may hear the sounds of Ypsilon Falls. This segmented and tiered cascade can be accessed by crossing a small footbridge, then hiking toward the sounds of the falls along Ypsilon's northwestern shore.

The return hike follows the same route back to the Lawn Lake trailhead, making this a 9-mile, round-trip journey.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP

  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Bridge Out: Due to the damage caused by a flood in September 2013, the bridge over Roaring River is missing. Cross only during low water, and see the RMNP flood closures page for updates.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Camping Site, and provides topo information.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Roger Dellinger for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Odessa Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Odessa Lake is one destination you shouldn't miss in Rocky Mountain National Park. The alpine scenery is striking as towering mountain peaks seem to rise right out of the Lake. Odessa offers great views of Joe Mills Mountain, The Gable, and Little Matterhorn. This hike described here begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead, but a second route is possible from Bear Lake and is briefly described as well. Explore the full Odessa Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Odessa Lake in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the road side. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

The Hike: Odessa Lake in RMNP

Beginning at the Fern Lake Trailhead, the trail will follow the Big Thompson River past several sites (see the list and waypoints below) including three cascade waterfalls before arriving at Fern Lake at 3.9 miles. Fern Lake sits at approximately 9500' elevation. The next segment up to Odessa Lake climbs another approximate 500' in elevation over the course of one mile.

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

At Odessa a spur trail takes hikers along the secluded western shore of the lake, something you can't miss if you've hiked this far. The spur is marked by a trail junction sign, and leads over a footbridge to cross Fern Creek, then through a short, narrow gorge before opening out to Odessa Lake.

Return and Alternate Route Options

Hikers have a couple options for their return route. They can turn around and hike back the way they came, or they can hike the 4.1 miles to the Bear Lake Trailhead where a shuttle system can transport them back to the Fern Lake bus stop. If you are considering this option, be sure to check the shuttle times and details. At the time of this writing, a shuttle transfer at the park-n-ride will be necessary to get back to the Fern Lake bus stop.

This route down into Bear Lake travels past Lake Helene and Two Rivers Lake. After approximately 3 miles, the trail arrives at a trail junction where signs indicate the final .9 mile trail segment down to Bear Lake and Trailhead.

This 4.1 mile route from Odessa to Bear Lake can be traveled in reverse as an alternate and very scenic option for hiking up to Odessa Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead.

Sights & Waypoints Along the Fern Lake Trail:

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Bear Country: There is a decent population of Black Bears near Spruce, Fern, and Odessa Lakes. Be bear aware and be sure to dispose of food and waste properly.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Wayne Boland for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Odessa Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Spruce Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Spruce Lake is an ideal destination in Rocky Mountain National Park for those who are looking to hike through terrain with some variety. After the 3.9 mile hike to Fern Lake, the .9 mile spur trail to Spruce Lake is moderate, with a few steep and rocky segments. It's a great place to find some solitude as few hikers will push on beyond Fern Lake. Views of Castle Rock and Gabletop Mountain fill the landscape, and catch and release fishing is allowed with a valid fishing license. Explore the full Spruce Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Spruce Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Spruce Lake in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the road side. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

The Hike: Spruce Lake in RMNP

After hiking approximately 3.8 miles up toward Fern Lake from the Fern Lake Trailhead--see the full Fern Lake Trail Profile---the trail will split, just before Fern Lake, and a sign will point the way to Spruce Lake.

The trail up to Spruce Lake is a easy to moderate climb through dense woods ending with a short descent across boulder field and down into the marshland that surrounds much of Spruce Lake.

Because Fern Lake is so close to the Spruce Lake trail junction, it's worth hiking to its shores either before or after hiking to Spruce Lake.

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

There are two campsites at Spruce Lake and these must be reserved through the Rocky Mountain National Park Backcountry Offices.

Sights Along the Fern Lake Trail:

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Spruce Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Bear Country: There is a decent population of Black Bears near Spruce, Fern, and Odessa Lakes. Be bear aware and be sure to dispose of food and waste properly.
  • Bring a snack or picnic lunch: The rocks near the Big Thompson River and the shores of Fern Lake can be a great place for picnics. Plus, you're going to need some fuel for this hike.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Andrew Mace for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Spruce Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

A hike up to Fern Lake begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the Fern Lake Trail, hikers pass through Arch Rocks, over a bridge at The Pool, and by three cascade waterfalls. Near the, you'll gain spectacular views of The Gable, Knobtop Mountain, Notchtop Mountain, and Little Matterhorn from its northern shore. Explore the full Fern Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fern Lake in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along the road as this damages the roadside, and vehicles will be ticketed. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

The Hike: Fern Lake in RMNP

The hike up to the lake is a moderate one. The only demanding aspect is the round-trip distance of 7.8 miles. In the late-Spring and early-Summer, snow may still be on the ground, adding some difficulty to navigating the trail. However, most of the summer months, this is a pleasant hike with a significant amount of shade. The first trailside sight is a cascade tucked away in a gulch above the tail, Windy Gulch Cascades, which can be seen to the North (right) about 1/2 mile in.

The trail continues, following the Big Thompson River. At 1.5 Miles in, the trail weaves through several house-size boulders at Arch Rocks (pictured below).

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Just a bit further at 1.7 miles in, a bridge crosses the Big Thompson River near the spot of its confluence with both Spruce and Fern Creeks. This area is know as The Pool. After crossing the bridge at The Pool, there is a trail junction. The trail up to the lake splits off to the right.

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Just about 1/10th of a mile past The Pool, an unnamed set of cascades can be heard and seen to the right of the trail (pictured below).

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The next mile of trail continues up a set of switchbacks that make a steady climb through the forest to Fern Falls (pictured below).

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After Fern Falls, there is just 1.1 mile left to the Lake. This is the segment that may still be packed with snow. At the Lake, hikers will find a panorama of sights. From here, a social trail can be traced down to Marguerite Falls, a small set of hidden cascades along Fern Creek and just below the Lake.

Fern Lake can be a jumping off point for several other destinations:

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Bring Snack or Picnic Lunch: You'll need fuel for this hike. There are a lot of great spots along the shores of the Lake to sit down and enjoy a picnic lunch.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Black Lake is among the most spectacular lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The journey to Black Lake is a strenuous, 10 mile, round-trip hike with significant elevation gain--but both the destination of Black Lake and the several waterfalls along the way make it more than worth the effort. Explore the full Black Lake hiking trail profile for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Black Lake Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Black Lake RMNP, Colorado

The trail to Black Lake begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has more limited parking, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you'll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. In the event that parking at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike to Black Lake RMNP

Hiking to Black Lake takes you into the Glacier Gorge Trail system with many wonderful destinations including Mills Lake, Jewel Lake, and Ribbon Falls. Be sure to review the different waypoints and destinations below so that you don't miss any of the sites. The first destination--and one you can't miss because it's right along the trail--is at .8 miles, Alberta Falls. After the waterfall, the trail ascends toward an eventual trail junction. The way to Black Lake is to follow the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail that bears right. This trail climbs steadily for about another half mile until arriving at a second major trail junction with three options. The left-hand trail leads into Glacier Gorge and eventually to Mills Lake.

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Morning Light at Mills Lake in the Early Spring - Courtesy of Steven Bratman

List and Links of Destinations From Glacier Gorge Trailhead to Black Lake

1. Glacier Gorge Trailhead
2. Alberta Falls - @ .8 mile
3. Mills Lake - @ 2.8 miles
4. Jewel Lake - @ 3.2 miles
5. Ribbon Falls - @ 4.8 miles
6. Black Lake - @ 5 miles

At Mills Lake, the trail follows its eastern shore for about 1/2 a mile until arriving at Jewel Lake, a much smaller body of water surrounded by lush green marshes. The next segment of the trail is my favorite, a challenging stretch of approximately 2 miles that leads hikers across bogs, and through verdant forest where the snow hangs on well into the summer months. In fact, this stretch may prove very difficult in the spring and early weeks of June depending on that year's weather. The trail continues to follow Glacier Creek up into the higher reaches of the park and ever closer to Keyboard of the Winds, the jagged rock formation ever present against the eastern sky.

Keyboard of the Winds is named for the sounds that flow from it's sharp edges as high winds whistle and roar across its peaks. Be sure to stop and listen for the music. It can be a mesmerizing experience.

If snow is still on the ground, then the last bit of the trail may require some basic route finding. The established trail skirts the left/east side of Black Lake, but can at times be hard to find. Stay close to the creek and you should be okay. Soon, hikers will encounter Ribbon Falls, a beautiful slide waterfall. Black Lake is just .2 mile further up the trail. This final segment is steep and requires negotiating some rocks and boulders before coming over the rise to gain breathtaking views of Black Lake.

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking Black Lake in Glacier Gorge RMNP :

  • Start Early: The hike to Black Lake is challenging and hikers will want to begin early to avoid being in this exposed area when afternoon thunderstorms often tear through the area in Summer.
  • Trekking Poles in Spring and Winter: Because the trail is high in the mountains, the snow and ice can hang around into late Spring and even early Summer, then pick up again in the Fall. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail when the trail conditions are such.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead, or you can park at the Bear Lake Trailhead.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Conditions: Click for RMNP Trail Conditions
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor Trails: Trail Map Link
  • Rain Gear Recommended: On every occasion I've been into Glacier Gorge, it's been gorgeous weather--and it rained. So, bring Rain gear. In the summer months, thunderstorms can form quickly in this area, especially in the afternoon--just another reason to begin your hike early.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell Brew Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Erik Page for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge colorado hike finder


The Best Flyfishing Site in Colorado...


Doesn't exist! Well, at least not yet. And maybe I'm asking for too much, something like Marty Bartholomew's Flyfisher's Guide to Colorado that details trails, and hatches, flows, and info on how to get there. It would be comprehensive and...well...a lot like Dayhikes Near Denver. But for now, the best fly fishing site on Colorado is still a book.

Why Not? Here's my theory on why no one has done it. First, most sites are maintained by guys who are fishing. They guide a lot and are on the water from thaw to freeze. Second, most sites are crafted around a store or guiding service. Once you get in a certain mindset, it's hard to break out of it. Like my marketing prof in college said, "The railroad business has to remember that it's not in the railroad business. It's in the transportation business." Finally, we who fish tend to guard our spots - we get protectionistic. That'll kill such a site pretty quick. But what works now, in the information age, is giving your best stuff away for free. For more on that, check out Chris Anderson's book, Free.

Iwould love to hear your thoughts:

  • What Colorado flyfishing sites have you found most helpful?
  • Is there a project going on, maybe a forum, that is close to what I've mentioned above?
  • Are you doing it? If so, give us the link!