diamond lake in indian peaks wilderness on hike near denver

Diamond Lake Hike

The Diamond Lake Trail leads hikers to a high alpine lake nestled in the forest below Jasper Peak in Indian Peaks Wilderness. This 2.7 mile, moderately demanding trail leads to good fishing at Diamond Lake, past a waterfall and multiple cascades, and opens up to the incredible views that make Colorado's high-country famous. Explore the full Diamond Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Diamond Lake Trail

Directions to Diamond Lake Trail & Trailhead

Drive for approximately for 1hr from Denver to Nederland, Colorado. From Nederland, drive south on CO 119 for about half a mile. Turn right onto CR 130 towards Eldora, then proceed westward through the town of Eldora on Eldorado Avenue which will turn into Hessie Road as it leaves town. At the intersection with CR 111 (4th of July Road) turn right; this will take you to the Fourth of July Trailhead. On the way to the trailhead, you'll pass Buckingham Campground. Though this looks like a trailhead and parking area, drive past it to the actual trailhead. It is important to note that 4th of July Road is a dirt road and only useable by passenger vehicles during the Summer months, and rain and snow can cause the road conditions to be unpredictable.

The Hike to Diamond Lake

The hike to Diamond Lake begins at the 4th of July Trailhead by taking the Arapaho Pass Trail #904. The Arapaho Pass trail ascends quickly into Indian Peaks Wilderness area. New views open up about every quarter mile featuring distant waterfalls, trailside cascades, creeks, wildflowers, and expansive mountain views. Hikers will encounter the first trail junction at 1.2 miles in. The correct trail, the Diamond Lake Trail (easy to remember) is to the left/west. The first 1/2 mile on the Diamond Lake Trail heads west along a drainage then descends to Middle Boulder Creek. At approximately 1.7 miles into the hike, the trail follows a bridge over Middle Boulder Creek. This a great place to stop and take in Diamond Lake Falls (pictured below).

diamond lake falls as it spills out of Middle Boulder Creek high in Indian Peaks Wilderness

After the waterfall, the trail crosses two more creeks then begins a steep ascent through a series of switchbacks. This final trail segment is approximately 1 mile, making the entire one-way hike to Diamond Lake approximately 2.7 miles. This segment from the waterfall to the lake is often covered with snow into early Summer, so orienteering and snow-travel skills are recommended for those who decide to negotiate the snow-covered trail.

forest near diamond lake with snow and fogSnow and Fog on the Forest near Diamond Lake

Campfires are prohibited at Diamond Lake, but camping is allowed by permit and in the designated sites. For more details on backcountry travel and permits in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, see the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance. The Diamond Lake Trail continues past Diamond Lake into the high country where it meets up with the Devils Thumb trail. Hikers in Indian Peaks should always prepare by packing the 10 Essentials, and have a plan in case they encounter rapidly changing weather conditions. In the summer, this means thunderstorms and lightning that rapidly form, and un-forecasted snowstorms from Fall to early Summer.

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Diamond Lake Falls Hike

Diamond Lake Falls requires a 1.7 mile one-way hike into Indian Peaks Wilderness. Many hikers choose to hike the 1 mile further up to Diamond Lake. Wildflowers, cascades, and expansive mountain views are just a few of the features that make hiking to Diamond Lake Falls worthwhile. Explore the full trail profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Diamond Lake Falls Trail

Directions & Trailhead Information for 4th of July Trailhead

Travel for approximately for 1hr from Denver to Nederland, Colorado. From Nederland, travel south on CO 119 for about half a mile. Turn right onto CR 130 towards Eldora. Proceed westward through the town of Eldora on Eldorado Avenue which will turn into Hessie Road as it leaves town. At the intersection with CR 111 (4th of July Road) turn right and proceed to the Fourth of July Trailhead. On the way to the trailhead, you'll pass Buckingham Campground. Though this looks like a trailhead and parking area, drive past it to the actual trailhead. It is important to note that 4th of July Road is a dirt road and only useable by passenger vehicles during the Summer months, and rain and snow can cause the road conditions to be unpredictable.

diamond lake drive to 4th of july trailhead

On the Way to 4th of July Trailhead

The Hike: Diamond Lake Falls Trail

Diamond Lake Falls is actually an unnamed waterfall situated in Indian Peaks Wilderness about 1 mile below Diamond Lake where the trail crosses the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek. Most hikers will include a stop at the falls on their way up to Diamond Lake (2.7 miles one-way). The hike begins at the 4th of July Trailhead on the Arapaho Pass Trail #904. This first segment on the Arapaho Pass trail climbs into Indian Peaks Wilderness and is adorned with wildflowers in the early and mid-Summer.
trail sign turn left to diamond lake
At 1.2 miles, the trail will come to a junction. The way up to Diamond Lake Falls and Diamond Lake will follow the left-hand trail. The Diamond Lake Trail first heads west along a drainage then descends to Middle Boulder Creek. This segment from the trail junction to the bridge and waterfall is 0.5 mile.

diamond lake falls as it spills out of Middle Boulder Creek high in Indian Peaks Wilderness

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golden aspens and green pine trees on the mountains of kenosha pass colorado hikes near denver in the fall

Kenosha Pass Hiking Trails

Kenosha Pass is probably the best place to view the changing aspens near Denver. It offers both an East and West trail option with gradual ascents to stunning views. Starting at 10,000' the initial elevation gain on the trails make for easy to moderately strenuous hikes, all depending on how far one decides to travel on these beautiful segments of the Colorado Trail. Vantage points can be accessed about 1/2 mile up both trails offering views down into the high country plains of South Park and out to the Rocky Mountains. Explore the full Kenosha Pass hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this Colorado hike.

Trail Snapshot: Kenosha Pass Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Kenosha Pass Hike

Kenosha Pass is located about 65 miles southwest of Denver along US 285. From Denver, take US 285 towards Bailey, Colorado. From Bailey, continue driving approximately 19 miles on 285 to the Kenosha Pass Trailhead. The trailhead parking area is located on both East (left when coming from Denver) and West (right side when coming from Denver) of 285. There is additional parking on the East side after crossing a cattle gate. Parking can get tight in the Autumn when the aspens are at their peak, so be considerate of others and the land as you park your vehicle. It's about a 90 minute drive from Denver. Restrooms can be found on both trailheads.

Hiking the Kenosha Pass Trail

kenosha pass map

Two Hiking Options and Where the Trails Begin

The hiking trails at Kenosha Pass easy to moderate in difficulty and can be done by hikers of all experience levels. At Kenosha Pass, the Colorado Trail, which goes from Denver to Durango, intersects with US Highway 285. This creates an East side trail option and an West side trail option. Both offer incredible views down into the South Park plains of Colorado and out to the often snow-capped peaks of the Mosquito Range.

Hiking the East Side of Kenosha Pass

Hikers can pick up the Colorado Trail after crossing the cattle gate (if parked along 285) and hiking along the dirt road that leads to the restrooms that are near the 2nd parking area (after the cattle gate). The Trailhead is located just before the 2nd parking area, and will be located on the right (south). While most visitors park, take a jaunt into the aspens, snap a few photos and leave, the more stunning views await those who venture further south along the trail. The initial trail segment enters with a gradual ascent into the aspens, then at 1/2 a mile into the hike the woods opens up to incredible views into South Park.

kenosha pass moose

South Park is a high mountains plains area that stretches out mile-upon-mile to its western and norther mountain borders, the Collegiate Peaks and the Mosquito Range of the Rocky Mountains. The climb continues at a gradual pace and hikers will emerge to a second panorama at 1.5 miles. This is a great place to turn-around, making it into a 3 mile out-ant-back hike. Of course, hikers can continue on the trail all the way back into Denver, but that requires a multi-day backpacking trip. As always, keep eyes peeled for changing weather, and pack the 10 Essentials. If you are wondering what should be in your daypack, be sure to download our free Dayhike Hiking and Packing Guide. As for wildlife, moose are often spotted on this side along the lake near the trailhead.

Hiking the West Side of Kenosha Pass

Changing Aspens at Kenosha Pass Colorado

The West Side Trail at Kenosha Pass can be picked up immediately on the West side of 285. The trail enters conifer and aspen forest, making a gentle climb toward the northwest until popping out of the trees to breathtaking views down into South Park and the Mosquito Range. After this viewpoint, the trail travels a short distance uphill, then makes its way down toward Guernsey Creek. The distance from the trailhead to Guernsey Creek is approximately 3 miles, making this a 6 mile out-and-back adventure. Because this is the Colorado Trail, it does continue west, offering multi-day backpacking options that lead all the way to Durango, Colorado.

aspen trees yellow orange gold at rocky mountain national park colorado with stone mountain in background fall hikes near denver

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Granite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Granite Falls takes a 5.1 mile journey from the Green Mountain Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. At Granite Falls, the waters of Tonahutu Creek drop fifty feet through a course of smooth granite slabs. The hike offers a diverse landscape: from tranquil forests, to expansive meadows, and verdant creeksides--all alive with wildflowers and wildlife. Explore the full Granite 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: Granite Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Granite Falls

The Green Mountain Trailhead is located on the western side area of Rocky Mountain National Park, north of Grand Lake, Colorado, along Trail Ridge Road. From the Kawuneeche Visitor Center in Grand Lake, drive 3 miles north on Trail Ridge Road. The Green Mountain Trailhead will be on the right/east side of the road, and has a capacity for around 25 vehicles.

The Hike: Granite Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike begins at the Green Mountain Trailhead and follows the Green Mountain Trail for 1.9 miles to Big Meadows, and encounters the first trail junction. The way to Granite Falls is to take the left-hand trail for 0.7 mile that skirts the western border of Big Meadows. There is a group campsite in Big Meadows that offers some of the most spectacular views of the night sky. Moose and elk frequent this area and brook trout can be found in nearby Tonahutu Creek.

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Big Meadows Courtesy of Michael Levine-Clark

At 2.6 miles, the trail meets a second trail junction. The way to Granite Falls is to go right/east on the Tonahutu trail towards Flattop Mountain. Because their is only a 1000' elevation gain over the course of the 5.1 miles to Granite Falls, the trail only has a mild and undulating slope. After crossing two creeks, a small sign will point the way down a spur trail that leads to Granite Falls. The waterfall is a series of slide cascades flowing over broad granite slabs into a pool of swirling waters. The hike back follows the same route, making this a 10.2 mile out-and-back hike.

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 Granite Falls in RMNP

  • Prepare: Bring lots of water and high-energy food for this longer 10.2 mile hike.
  • Trail Map for Kawuneeche Valley: 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 Will Currier for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Granite Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Fat Cat Cafe It may be the best breakfast in Colorado!

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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.

pear lake rocky mountain national park pear creek

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 rocky mountain national park header

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.

ouzel falls rocky mountain national park header

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.

fan falls rocky mountain national park pond
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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