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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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Finch Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Finch Lake is a 4.5 mile hike through pines, aspen glades, and wildflower laden meadows to a sub-alpine lake where the forest surrounds its shores. The Finch Lake trail is a great choice for those who prefer solitude as it's one of the lesser traveled trails in the Wild Basin region of RMNP. Explore the full Finch 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: Finch Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park</h2

Parking & Trailhead Information for Finch Lake

The Finch Lake Trailhead is 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: Finch Lake Trail in RMNP

The hike up to the Lake is a steady climb through a forest of pine, aspen, spruce, and meadows laden with wildflowers. It begins with a set of switchbacks then follows the contours of a moraine. After gaining the ridge of the moraine, the trail begins a gentle descent through one of Rocky Mountain National Park's most stunning displays of wildflowers. Near the bottom of the moraine, just above Fox Creek, the trail will come to its first junction. The the trail to the right/west leads towards both the lake (the left/east trail leads to the Allenspark Trailhead). Climbing higher, the trail will pass an overlook with views of the distant mountain peaks and 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 works its way through a burn area from a 1978 fire, now in full recovery mode and blanketed with summer wildflowers. Continuing to work uphill, the trail makes several stream crossings before a descent to the 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 the Lake the trail wraps around the eastern edge, then the northern shore of the lake. During midsummer, swarms of bright blue dragonflies dance along its waters. The Finch Lake backcountry camping sites are located on the north and northwestern side. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices.

Finch Lake is not a good fishing destination. However, Pear Lake, just 2 miles further up the trail, is a much better destination for anglers and offers spectacular views of the rugged peaks surrounding it.

finch lake rocky mountain national park
Finch Lake - Another View

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Finch Lake in RMNP

  • Prepare: It's a long and demanding hike, so bring lots of water and high-energy food.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Get there early: Parking lot might get full even early in the morning. Hikers should expect to have to park at the Wild Basin Trailhead and add approximately 1/2 mile to their round trip hike (1000' one-way to the Finch Lake 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 Shea Oliver for sharing such amazing photographs of this hike.
  • After the Hike: Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria

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snow capped front range mountains of colorado from panorama at golden gate canyon state park along raccoon trail hike

Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Our kids loved this 2.5 mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The trail sports lots of shade, panoramic views of snowcapped peaks, wildflowers, and trickling brooks. Be sure to see the details below regarding an annual raptor closure that detours one segment of this hike. Explore the full Raccoon Loop Hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Raccoon Trail Loop at Golden Gate Canyon

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Raccoon Loop Hike

You can begin your hike at either the Panorama Point Trailhead or at the Reverend Ridge Campground Trailhead. Our family hiked this from the Panorama Point Trailhead. Though parking is limited, there is additional parking located directly across the street in a dirt lot. Reverend Ridge Trailhead, while a larger parking area, can fill up fast because it is located at the campground. Either one, however, is a good option. Driving directions for both trailheads are located in the trail snapshot above.

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The Hike: The Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

We hiked the Raccoon Loop counter-clockwise from the Panorama Point Trailhead and found it to be easy to moderate in difficulty. Our kids (at the time of this post) are 5 and 8. Both were wearing tennis shoes and did well on the trail. There was a steep segment with loose rock, where our youngest needed me to hold her hand as she navigated here way down the trail.

The trail begins with incredible views of the snowcapped Indian Peaks stretched out against the western sky. Soon, views of Thorodin Mountain and Starr peak dominate the landscape as the trail winds to the east and crosses a seasonal brook. Raccoon Trail then gently drops into aspen groves and green meadows full of wildflowers.

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Entering a more mature stand of aspens, the trail begins a more steep descent. This is where hikers will want to watch their footing on the loose rock and gravel surface of the trail. After this short descent, the trail crosses another brook over a small footbridge, then begins to climb a bit further west before turning sharply to the south.

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Shortly after the brook is where we encountered the closure of approximately 0.5 mile of the Raccoon trail. These closures are announced on the front page of the Golden Gate Canyon State Park website, and we knew about it before making our trip.

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One of the Nesting Raptor Closure Signs

This rerouted us up to the Reverend Ridge Campground, then required that we hike down State Park Road for about 0.5 mile until we were able to pick up the Raccoon Trail again. Because the detour wasn't clearly marked, we've provided an image of the normal route vs. the detour route we took below.

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It probably goes without saying, but do exercise caution when walking the road, and assume that cars will not see you. There are several sharp turns/switchbacks. We were able to pick up the trail down where the road comes to a stop sign, then hike back to Panorama Point. The detour adds approximately 1 mile to the original hike, making this into a 3.5 mile loop hike.

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Where we picked up the Raccoon/Mule Deer Trail after Walking the Road Detour

This last section had some elevation gain, but still was moderate in difficulty. This is a great hike for visiting friends and family, but those who have not acclimatized to the altitude, or who are not in the best shape, may find this last part challenging. There is a bench strategically placed on the ascent, and rocks where you can rest your legs.

At Panorama Point, hikers will find a large deck and viewing area. It's one of the best accessible views you'll get of the Front Range near Denver.

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girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Raccoon Loop Hike

  • Be Aware of Closures: The Raccoon Loop has seasonal closures when raptors are nesting. However, it's just one segment of the trail that is closed, and a (not-so-well-marked) detour is available.
  • Look out for Mtn Bikers: We always find mountain bikers to be considerate on the trails near Denver. There is an established etiquette and they will call their pass. Still, it's good to know that this trail is popular with both mountain bikers and hikers, so keep your eyes and ears peeled and give them plenty of room to pass.
  • Trail Map for Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Windy Saddle Cafe in Golden, Colorado

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Trio Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Trio Falls is among the most stunning waterfalls that you will encounter in Rocky Mountain National Park, or in Colorado. But it comes at a price: A 15-mile round-trip, demanding hike. Because of this, the hike up to Trio Falls may best be part of an overnight camping trip in the park. Explore the full Trio Falls 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: Trio Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Trio Falls

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: Trio Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike up to Trio Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park combines both distance and a fair amount of elevation gain to make this a very challenging hike. Because Trio Falls is 7 1/2 miles from the trailhead, few make the journey; but the solitude and the sights are worth it to those who make the effort. Because the round-trip hike is 15+ miles, it's advisable to make this hike a part of a multi-day camping trip in the park. If you are considering camping, there are several reservable backcountry camping spots in the Wild Basin area, and camping permits can be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices.

Trio Falls is located between Lion Lake #1 and Lion Lake #2 in the Wild Basin. For a detailed trail description of the almost 7-mile hike to Lion Lake #1, which takes hikers past three other waterfalls, be sure to explore the trail profile for Lion Lake #1.

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Lion Lake #1 - Courtesy of Shea Oliver.

At Lion Lake #1, there is a social trail that runs along the right/east side of the lake. Because this next segment is on unmaintained trails in a remote section of the park, hikers should possess both land navigation skills, map, and equipment. This social trail leads for about 1/2 mile along the lake, beyond into rocky terrain, and eventually to the waterfall.

There are a lower and an upper set of cascades to Trio Falls. Following the trail past the lower cascades requires a scramble and negotiating an passage through thick willows and rock. Hikers should exercise extra caution in this wet and rocky terrain.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Trio Falls in RMNP

  • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of Trio Falls, and provides topo information.
  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads.
  • Itinerary: It should go without saying, but be sure to always leave an itinerary with family and/or friends, and give them a call when you are back at the trailhead or within cell range.
  • Another Waterfall: If you are lucky and there is an ample flow of water, another waterfall can be spotted pouring down from the cliffs near Trio Falls.
  • Get there early: Parking may be 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.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Steven Bratman for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Trio Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria

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lion lake 1 rocky mountain national park header

Lion Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Lion Lake #1 in Rocky Mountain National Park boasts a dramatic alpine landscape hidden away in the northwestern corner of the Wild Basin. The trail to this high-mountain lake passes several waterfalls and offers access to other lakes and surrounding peaks. Because the Lions lake is more remote, a trip to it may require an overnight stay at one of RMNP's backcountry camping sites. Explore the full Lion Lake #1 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: Lion Lake #1 in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lion 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: Lion Lake #1 Trail in RMNP

It's seven miles one-way to Lion Lake #1, which requires that hikers get a very early start, or build this hike into a multi-day camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you are considering camping, there are several reservable backcountry camping spots in the Wild Basin area, and camping permits can be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices.

The trail begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and takes hikers through the central area of the Wild Basin, past three sets of cascade waterfalls, then up into the highest reaches of this lesser visited section of the National Park.

The first waterfall, Copeland Falls, is just 0.4 mile into the hike. For details on accessing both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls, be sure to explore our full trail profile for Copeland Falls.

The trail then traces the path of North Saint Vrain Creek, until it encounters a junction. The trail to the right leads past a series of backcountry campsites mentioned above, and is a slightly more direct route to Lion Lake #1. However, the left-hand trail is not much longer and leads to two more waterfalls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. The rest of this trail profile will explain this route.

Having taken the left-hand trail, you'll 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 will meet with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. Taking the right-hand trail, hikers will soon encounter the sight and spray of the cascades. Then trail will cross over another 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. Ouzel Falls, while not large when compared to Alberta or Fern Falls, may be one of the most stunning waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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

After Ouzel Falls, the trail comes to a junction with the Bluebird Lake trail at 3.1 miles. However, the way to the Lion Lake passes by this junction and keeps going straight/northwest.

In approximately 1.5 mile from the Bluebird Trail junction, the trail makes a final split. The trail to the left leads up to Thunder Lake and Fan Falls. The right leads up to the Lion Lakes and is a hiker-only trail (no horses or pack animals beyond this point). Now you're entering the very heart of Rocky Mountain National Park.

lion lake 1 rocky mountain national park mount alice

Lion Lake #1 and Mount Alice

The trail now becomes undulating, with spots of level ground, meadows, boulders, and marsh. It's the kind of diversity that characterizes the beautiful high-country of Colorado. On the approach to Lion Lake #1, Mt. Alice comes into view with it's sheer rock wall and pyramid peak. Moving into the Lion Lakes area, beautiful meadows and marsh hold the delight of wildflowers, and the nuisance of mosquitos.

Following a social trail from the shores of Lion Lake #1, hikers can push on to the Trio Falls and Lion Lake #2. Because this next segment is on unmaintained trails in a remote section of the park, hikers should possess both land navigation skills, map, and equipment.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lion Lake #1 in RMNP

  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight. Make sure there is nothing that smells good to bears left in your car (that includes air fresheners).
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • Camping: The Thunder Lake campsite and others along this route can be reserved through the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Offices. Because this is an extensive hike in rugged country, it may be wise to make this expedition a part of a multi-day trip.
  • 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.
  • Recommended Trail Map for Lion Lake Hike: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
  • 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 Shea Oliver for sharing such amazing photographs of this hike to Lion Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria

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Fan Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fan Falls is tucked away in the high reaches of the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park. This 15.5 mile, difficult trek, leads to a long set of segmented cascades spilling out of the heights and streaming down into Thunder Lake. This garden of water, wildflowers and rock is a perfect escape for those looking for a demanding hike to a more secluded spot. Explore the entire Fan Falls 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: Fan Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

fan falls rocky mountain national park stream
A Stream Along the Cascades of Fan Falls

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fan Falls

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: Fan Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike up to Fan Falls leads through the central area of the Wild Basin, taking hikers past three sets of cascade waterfalls, around the shore of Thunder Lake, and finally to a lonely creek dropping into a series of rocky cascades.

Beginning at the Wild Basin Trailhead, the trail passes by Copeland Falls, a set of two cascade waterfalls just 0.4 mile into the hike. For details on accessing both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls, be sure to explore our full trail profile for Copeland Falls.

copeland falls rocky mountain national park header
Copeland Falls - Photo Courtesy of Ben Graham

The trail then follows North Saint Vrain Creek, until it meets with a trail junction. The trail to the right leads past a series of backcountry campsites, and is a slightly more direct route to Thunder Lake and Fan Falls. However, the left-hand trail is not much longer and takes hikers past two more waterfalls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. The rest of this trail profile will explain this route.

Having taken the left-hand trail, it will soon cross a hefty log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Stop here to enjoy an unnamed set of cascades. Soon the trail will meet with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. The right-hand trail leads hikers to the cascades, over another bridge that crosses Cony Creek at 1.8 miles, then weaves up a set of switchbacks to Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles.

calypso cascades rocky mountain national park from below
Calypso Cascades - Photo Courtesy of Jeff Kramer

After Ouzel Falls, the trail comes to a junction with the Bluebird Lake trail at 3.7 miles. However, the way to Fan falls passes by this junction and keeps going straight/northwest. In approximately 1.5 mile from the Bluebird Trail junction, the trail makes a final split. The right leads up to the Lion Lakes and to Thunder Falls. The trail to the left leads up to Thunder Lake and Fan Falls.

At Thunder Lake, the way to Fan Falls requires some listening and attention to the landscape. Hikers should be familiar with backcountry travel and land navigation because this remaining segment requires hiking on unmarked and lesser traveled social trails. Hiking along the right/north side of the lake, the way leads into the forest. When the trees open up into a clearing, the sounds of Fan Falls become apparent. Following the sound of the waterfall and the creek, hikers can pick their way through rock, brush, and deadfall until reaching the base of Fan Falls. Bluebells and other wildflowers grow out from between the rock, painting the splash and spray of the cascades with color.

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A Pond Above Fan Falls in RMNP

The source of Fan Falls can be accessed by hiking higher to the area above the cascades. Here, a small pond holding the meltwater from the winter's snow reflects the towering and craggy peaks that surround it.

The return hike traces the same route. However, one change can be made: Instead of taking the trail back to Ouzel Falls and Calypso Cascades, hikers can take the trail that stays to the North/left of North St. Vrain creek and passes the several backcountry campsites.

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 to Fan Falls in RMNP

  • Camping: The Thunder Lake campsite and others along this route can be reserved through the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Offices. Because this is an extensive hike in rugged country, it may be wise to make this expedition a part of a multi-day trip.
  • Lockers: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight.
  • 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.
  • Recommended Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: The trail maps provided by Rocky Mountain National Park are usually sufficient. However, for the hike up to Fan Falls, we highly recommend purchasing a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map.
  • 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 Shea Oliver for sharing such amazing photographs of this hike to Fan Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe in Allenspark, CO

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Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Calypso Cascades is an easy 3.6 mile hike to one of several waterfall destinations along this section of trail. This waterfall in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park is gets its name from the purple Calypso Orchids that bloom along the banks of Cony Creek. Explore the full Calypso Cascades 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: Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Calypso Cascades

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.

calypso cascades rocky mountain national park from below
Calypso Cascades From Below

The Hike: Calypso Cascades Trail in RMNP

The hike to Calypso Cascades begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and at just .3 mile into the trail, passes by both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls. Read our full trail profile on Copeland Falls for details on how to access both sets of cascades.

After taking in the views at Copeland Falls, the trail follows the course of North St. Vrain Creek as it flows out of the rugged high country and snowfields in this wild corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon the trail will split. The right-hand trail leads through a segment of trail with 5 different backcountry camping sites and on towards Thunder and Lion lakes. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. The left-hand trail leads south towards Calypso Cascades and Finch Lake Trail system.

Taking the Finch Lake Trail, hikers will cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Near the bridge, you'll discover an unnamed set of cascades. After crossing the bridge, the trail follows Cony Creek for about 0.4 mile to the site of Calypso Cascades. Calypso Cascades are reminiscent of Fern Falls: the waters of Cony Creek tumble over boulders and fallen trees in a moss-covered landscape. What makes Calypso Cascades unique are the Calypso Orchids (also known as Pink Lady Slippers) that bloom in the late-spring and early-summer along the creek.

Hikers can return to the trailhead to make this a 3.6 mile hike, or can continue on the Finch Lake trail for approximately 1 mile to the site of Ouzel Falls.

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Pink Fairy Slipper Flower

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Calypso Cascades in RMNP

  • TIP: The area near the bridge over North St. Vrain Creek can be a great spot for a picnic.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight.
  • 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.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jeff Kramer for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Calypso Cascades in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Ouzel Falls spills over a cliffside and enormous boulders, making it arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Before reaching this 40-foot falls, the trail traces the course of several creeks and leads hikers past three other cascade waterfalls. Explore the full Ouzel Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ouzel Falls

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 Falls Trail in RMNP

This 2.7 mile hike (one-way) begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead and passes three other cascade waterfalls before arriving at the Ouzel Falls. Copeland Falls are found just 0.4 miles into the hike. For details on locating both the lower and upper cascades, explore our full trail profile on Copeland Falls. After Copeland Falls, the trail continues following alongside North Saint Vrain Creek for about 1 mile to where it splits. The right-hand trail leads south to a log bridge crossing the creek. Near the bridge, hikers can take in the sights and sounds of another small cascade.

The trail continues south to Calypso Cascades, the third and final cascade waterfall before reaching Ouzel Falls. Here the trail splits again. The left-hand/east trail leads aback towards the Finch Lake trail and the Allenspark Trailhead. The right-hand/west trail leads towards Ouzel Falls and the Bluebird Lake Trail. Here, the trail crosses a set of two bridges, then climbs uphill through a set of switchbacks. The mountains to the north now come into view, both Mt. Meeker, Pagoda, and Longs Peak. This segment of trail between Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls is approximately 1 mile.

A second set of switchbacks brings hikers within earshot of the falls, and they will come into view at the bridge that crosses over Ouzel Creek. However, the best views of the falls can be gained via a social trail that is located before the bridge on the left side of the creek. This unmaintained trail leads to an area above the falls with incredible views of alpine meadows and craggy peaks. As with any social trails, please use the most worn paths and hike on durable surfaces. Be aware that the rock can become slick in this area and hikers should exercise caution when navigating above the falls.

Ouzel Falls is named after the Ouzel or Water-Dipper, the only songbird that lives a mostly aquatic life. Ouzels weave globe-shaped nests near waterfalls, lakes, and streams. They dive--even walk--underwater to catch insects and larvae.

Hikers can return the 2.7 miles back they way they came to Ouzel Falls, or can hike further to destinations such as Ouzel Lake (an additional 2.2 miles, one-way).

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ouzel Falls in RMNP

  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP. Parking at the trailhead can fill up, even in the early 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. Be sure that no food or strong scented items are left in your car.
  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight.
  • 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.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Steven Bratman for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ouzel Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Cub Lake Loop Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is a great alternative to the an out-and-back hike up to Cub Lake. Along the way, hikers will pass by Windy Gulch Cascades, travel alongside the Big Thompson River, cross over an area called The Pool, journey through wetlands, and will be surrounded by sights of a glacial-shaped landscape. Explore the full hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

Cub Lake Loop Hike Waypoints

A: 0.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead
B: 0.2 miles : Parking Lot
C: 0.8 miles : Fern Lake Trailhead
D: 2.5 miles : The Pool
E: 3.5 miles : Cub Lake Trail - Hollowell Park Trail Intersection
F: 3.7 miles : Cub Lake
G: 5.7 miles : Cub Lake Trail - South Lateral Moraine Trail Intersection
H: 6.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead

Parking & Trailhead Information for Cub Lake Loop

The Cub Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park has a very small parking area where only 7 to 8 vehicles can park. Chances are, if you don't arrive early in the morning, you'll need to park just .3 mile further down the road at the Fern Lake Bus Stop parking area. If both lots are full, then your best bet is to park in the RMNP Park & Ride lot and use the shuttle service to get to the Cub Lake Trailhead. Please do not park alongside the road. This causes significant erosion and damage to roadside--and you might get a ticket.

The Hike to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

This hike profile for the Cub Lake Loop in RMNP is hiked counter-clockwise from the Cub Lake parking area. However, it can be hiked the other direction--it's all a matter of preference. The hike can also be started at the Fern Lake Trailhead.

Beginning at the Trailhead, the first mile follows the dirt road past the Fern Lake bus stop, then through a grove of aspens to the Fern Lake trailhead. The first sight along the trail worth stopping to see are the Windy Gulch Cascades. They are about .4 mile into the Fern Lake Trail, tucked away in a gulch high above the valley. You'll hear them first, but a footbridge and water across the trail will key hikers into the location of the cascades. We've created a full hike profile on Windy Gulch Cascades, if you would like more detailed information on this hidden waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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The next sight along the trail is Arch Rocks, where the trail winds through a series of boulders, including two massive rocks that fell from the cliffs above into the valley many eons ago. Shortly after Arch Rocks, the sounds of the Big Thompson River, Spruce Creek, and Fern Creek will fill the air. At the confluence of these streams, a bridge crosses the area named "The Pool."

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The Pool - Courtesy of Steve Wallace

After crossing the bridge at The Pool, the trail splits. The right-hand trail makes its way up to Fern Falls and Fern Lake. The left-hand trail leads to the lake--this left-hand trail is the correct trail for completing the loop. The trail then bends south, then turns east and climbs up the South Lateral Moraine. This 1.2 mile segment from the Pool to Cub Lake is the most demanding part of the hike. The trail encounters a second trail junction with the Hollowell Park Trail which bears to the right. The trail to Hollowell Park is a beautiful detour, but leads away from Cub Lake. To stay on the Cub Lake loop, hikers will continue east on the Cub Lake Trail.

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A Sea of Lily Pads on Cub Lake - Courtesy of Steve Harbula

Soon after the junction, the trail descends to Cub Lake. Some of the best views of the Lake come from this segment of trail. The trail then runs along the shore of the Lake before it makes a steep descent through a strange and wild area scraped by an ancient glacier and riddled with boulders.

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Cub Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Barbara Morgan

The final trail segment leads through forest and marshland, across bridges, and down into the western edges of Moraine Park. Here, hikers will likely see elk grazing, and hear and see an extensive variety of birds among the shrubs and aspens. Before crossing into Moraine Park, the trail will split again. The right-hand trail leading along the South Lateral Moraine. The trail back to the Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads, continues North/Left for about 1/3 of a mile back to the Cub Lake Trailhead.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

  • 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.
  • TIP: Take advantage of the free park shuttle to get to the trailhead during peak seasons.
  • Bring A Picnic Lunch: The banks along the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Bug Spray: Because of the amount of water along this hike, hikers will likely encounter a fair share of mosquitos; so, bring some bug spray.
  • 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 in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Grace Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to view Grace Falls, high in the rock cliffs and ledges of Odessa Gorge, is one of several waterfalls and scenic waypoints along the Fern Lake Trail. Grace Falls drops nearly a hundred feet from Notchtop Mountain, tumbling over a series of ledges, eventually making its way into Fern Creek. Explore the full Grace Falls 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: Grace Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Grace Falls 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: Grace Falls in RMNP

The journey up to view Grace in Falls Rocky Mountain National Park takes hikers past or near 5 different waterfalls and several other scenic sites. Refer to the sites and waypoints list below for the full set. Because the last stretch of trail from the western shore of Odessa lake to Grace Falls is unmaintained and difficult to discern, the falls are best viewed from the stretch of trail between Odessa and Lake Helene (more detailed directions are below).

Grace falls freezes over in the winter, attracting ice climbers to the area. The size of the falls and volume depends very much on the melting snowpack from Ptarmigan Glacier. The best time of year to view the falls is in the Spring-Early Summer. The area near the base of Grace Falls is prone to avalanches--especially during this time of year--which is another good reason to elect to view Grace Falls from the Fern Lake trail, rather than attempting the difficult hike and scramble to its base.

The best place to view Grace Falls is about .8 mile beyond the Odessa Lake junction where the trail begins to climb toward the top of Odessa Gorge making its way toward Lake Helene. This brings the journey to approximately the 6 mile point, or 12 miles round trip. An alternative and very scenic return route is to continue on the trail until it joins up with the Flattop Trail connector which leads east and down into the Bear Lake Trailhead. This makes for a 9.6 mile total hike. At the Bear Lake Trailhead, a shuttle system can transport hikers 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.

Sights & Waypoints Along the Fern Lake Trail:

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Grace Falls Viewpoint in RMNP

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early at the Fern Lake Trailhead as parking is limited. If the lot is full, the best option is to use the park-n-ride shuttle that drops you off at the bus stop near the Fern Lake trailhead.
  • Begin Early: As with all longer hikes in the Colorado Mountains, it's important to start very early in the morning to avoid the thunderstorms that form in the early afternoon.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices or Snowshoes are Necessary 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. Snow it thick above Fern Lake until Mid-Summer, because of this snowshoes are also recommended.
  • Recommended Trail Map with Location of Grace Falls: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
  • 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 Stacey Bender for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Grace Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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