View of South Boulder Peak from Bear Peak Near Boulder Colorado

South Boulder Peak

South Boulder Peak is a demanding 3.7-mile hike (one-way) situated above the South Mesa in the famous Flatirons region near Boulder Colorado. Hikers can bag nearby Bear Peak on the same trip and return via Fern Canyon to make an 8.7 mile loop. Explore the full South Bolder Peak hike profile below for the trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder, Colorado.

South Boulder Peak Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for South Boulder Peak

Sign at South Mesa Trailhead South of Boulder Colorado with Parking Fees

The trail to South Boulder Peak begins at the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder, Colorado. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go South/West onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will eventually intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you'll find the South Mesa Trailhead on the right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead but not potable water.

The Hike: South Boulder Peak

If you study a map of the South Mesa area, you'll notice that it's a complex network of trails. Tis is great for exploring the mesa, but when summiting a peak, you'll want to preserve as much energy as possible by taking the most direct route. The first trail choice presents itself after crossing the bridge over small bridge that spans Boulder Creek.
Boulder Creek at South Mesa Trailhead with willow trees arching over the creek

We took the Homestead Trail, a 1.3 mile segment to a connector segment of the Mesa Trail. It will be marked "Mesa Trail" and have an arrow pointing left to the Shadow Canyon Trail and Right to the Towhee Trail. The way to South Boulder Peak will be to head left toward Shadow Canyon. During this first segment, you'll gain great views down into the entrance of Eldorado Canyon .

sunrise view from south mesa into eldorado canyon pink rock and green rolling meadows

The first 0.4-mile segment of the Shadow Canyon South Trail is gradual. At any of the other trail intersections keep taking those marked "Shadow Canyon." Eventually, the trail leads into a densely wooded ravine where an old cabin is tucked away in the undergrowth

old cabin in shadow canyon on the way up to bear peak near boulder colorado

You'll know when you've entered Shadow Canyon because the trail becomes steep and demanding. It's more humid, too, so the rock can get slippery. Be mindful of your steps and prepared to ascend over a mile of fairly rugged terrain.

sign for trail split shadow canyon to bear peak and wildflowers in foreground

Shadow canyon is an access point for a prominent rock formation, Devils Thumb. Seasonal closures (see photo below) protect nesting raptors. Be sure to stay out of this area from Feb. 1st to July 31st. The Shadow Canyon Trail is not closed during this time, but refrain from going off-trail or taking social trails in the closure area during these periods.

devils thumb along shadow canyon trail with closure sign at bottom left of photo

The trail pops out of the canyon onto saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. The first thing you'll notice is a burn area that stretches all the way to the top of South Boulder Peak. It's the result of the 2012 Flagstaff fire.

burn area on saddle above shadow canyon and below south boulder peak

At the saddle ridge, another trail sign notes the way to South Boulder Peak, a 0.3 mile trail climbs to the summit. You'll notice that the trail to the right leads the same distance to Bear Peak.

sign for trail split on saddle between bear peak and south boulder peak

At points, the trail becomes difficult to discern and requires a little bit of bouldering to make it to the top. Whenever I'm in these rocky segments, I try to be mindful of those behind me. It's easy to inadvertently cause a rock to shift and tumble toward the hikers below. Most of the rock is stable, but it's smart to be aware as you navigate these kinds of areas.

view along approach to south boulder peak summit to the Northwest with Longs Peak mountain in distance

The pink granite summit offers 360 degree panoramic views (see the video below).

view out to front range mountains near indian peaks from the summit of South boulder peak

You can also see the summit of Bear Peak just 0.6-mile to the Northeast. If you want to summit Bear Peak, be sure to review our Bear Peak Hike Profile.

Rocky Trail between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak

From the summit of South Boulder Peak your options are to 1) Descend via the approach route (7.4 miles round trip), 2) Summit Bear Peak and return via the approach route (8 miles total), or 3) Summit Bear Peak and return via Fern Canyon (approx. 8.7 miles). It's important to know that the descent into Fern Canyon is more demanding than the return via Shadow Canyon. For the loop route via Fern Canyon, explore our Bear Peak Trail Profile.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to South Boulder Peak

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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


Hiker on summit of bear peak near boulder colorado

Bear Peak Near Boulder

Bear Peak is a demanding 7.4-mile hike (round trip) through the broad meadows of South Mesa, up through the rocky trail of shadow canyon, to the granite summit with sweeping 360 degree views of the Colorado Front Range. You can summit South Boulder Peak on your way and make a loop hike out of your adventure by returning via Fern Canyon. Explore the full Bear Peak hike profile below for the trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder, Colorado.

Bear Peak Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bear Peak

south mesa trailhead with sign near boulder hike for bear peak

Access to Bear Peak is from the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go South/West onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Here, take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you'll find the South Mesa Trailhead on your right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

The Hike: Bear Peak

From the South Mesa Trailhead, the trail leads across a small bridge spanning over Boulder Creek. Willow trees arch over the stream making it worth a short pause to take in the sounds of water before you set off across the meadows of South Mesa. There are many trail options, but the most direct is to take the Homestead Trail, which heads West across a gentle grade toward Shadow Canyon.

bridge across creek with bear peak and flatirons in distance trail for bear peak hike

This first mile or so of the hike is easy and offers stunning views of the Flatirons and views of the entrance of Eldorado Canyon. An old stone building, part of an early homestead is the first marker you'll pass early in the hike.

old stone building along south mesa homestead trail on hike to bear creek

After about 1.3 miles, the trail will split. Take the left (West) trail, which leads to the South Shadow Canyon Trail. After about a 1/2 mile, you'll encounter a 2nd trail split. The Shadow Canyon Trail will again bear to the left and begin heading up steeper terrain.

bear peak lit by sunrise south of boulder colorado

As the trail ascends, you soon leave the meadow and enter into more dense ponderosa pine forest. The vegetation in the understory grows tall and green at the entrance to the canyon. You'll see another cabin with a metal roof (pictured below). Soon past the cabin will be another important trail juncture. Again, the trail up Shadow Canyon will bear left (West).

old cabin in shadow canyon on the way up to bear peak near boulder colorado

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

Once in Shadow Canyon, the trail now becomes much more steep and requires navigating over rock and tree roots. This segment of the trail traveling up through the canyon is over a mile, so be ready for a steady and demanding climb.

sign for trail split shadow canyon to bear peak and wildflowers in foreground

The canyon is an access route for Devils Thumb, a prominent rock formation along this ridge. There are seasonal closures (see photo below) because of nesting raptors. Be sure to stay out of this area from Feb. 1st to July 31st. You are welcome to stay on the Shadow Canyon trail--it's not closed during this time--but refrain from going off-trail or taking social trails during this time up to Devils Thumb.

sign for area closure in shadow canyon on way up to bear peak near boulder

Eventually, the trail emerges from the canyon onto the saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. This area is marked by a burn area, and in the late summer, raspberry plants grow trailside full of ripe berries. The burn was ignited by lightning in June of 2012. Named the Flagstaff Fire, it consumed about 300 acres before being contained by firefighters.

above shadow canyon looking down into canyon from a burn area on the saddle between south boulder peak and bear peak in the flatirons

Another trail sign notes the way to Bear Peak, a 0.3 mile trail segment curving North up the back of the summit.
sign for trail split on saddle between bear peak and south boulder peak

You'll notice more burn area on the left (West) side of the trail. The rock on the trail becomes increasingly brittle as you go, so be aware of those hiking below you and be sure to hike on the most secure and durable surfaces.

trail through burn area leading up to bear peak in the flatirons near boulder colorado

The final segment requires a scramble along about 25 yards of angled rock. Take your time and scope out the safest route to the summit. Most peaks along the Front Range have broad tops, but Bear Peak is tapered to a point. Several USGS markers are set into the rock (I think I counted 3--which is unusual). The views are great, both to the East and to the mountains in the West.

View from Bear Peak Near Boulder Colorado Orange granite peak looking down toward rolling green and trees landscape

There are two options for the return hike: 1) to hike the 3.7 miles back through Shadow Canyon, retracing the same trails, or 2) to make a loop out of the hike by descending via Fern Canyon (about 4.7-mile return). The rest of this profile will follow the Fern Canyon to Mesa Trail return.

trail sign at split just below the summit of bear peak pointing to fern canyon

A sign marking the trail down Fern Canyon is located right at the base of Bear Peak (where the trail turns into a scramble up the summit). The descent into Fern Canyon is very steep and the rock is very loose. Hikers will also encounter people making their way up the trail, so be sure to move off to the side and grant right-of-way to hikers who are doing the harder work of ascending the trail. I would not recommend hiking up to Bear Peak from this route because the trail is way more demanding than the Shadow Canyon approach.

descent trail that is very steep and rocky leading down into fern canyon from bear peak in the flatirons

After about 1/2 of a mile descending this steep saddle, the trail will bear right (East) into Fern Canyon via a series of switchbacks. Eventually, the trail will emerge from Fern Canyon back onto the more gentle slopes of South Mesa. Look for signs for the Mesa Trail, and follow them South back to the South Mesa Trailhead.

mesa trailhead sign below flatirons near boulder colorado

The hike back on the Mesa Trail travels in and out of the shade of Ponderosa pines and along the pink and orange Flatiron mountains that make this area so spectacular. We took the Upper Bluestem trail to some small connector trails leading back to the trailhead. Another approach is stay on the Mesa Trail (see map) until it connects back to the Homestead Trail.

meadows and ponderosa pine along mesa trail in the south mesa area of the flatirons south of boulder colorado with the flatirons in the background

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Bear Peak

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


rolling grassland and gamble oaks in castle rock colorado

Ridgeline Open Space Hike

Ridgeline Open Space is nestled in the Meadows residential area of Castle Rock. This network of over 13 miles of trails winds through elevated grasslands and gamble oak with a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks of the Front Range. Hike it or bike it for a quick escape from the work week. Explore the full Ridgeline Open Space hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Castle Rock.

Trail Snapshot: Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ridgeline Open Space

From Denver, follow Interstate 25 south to Castle Rock and take Exit 182 and go west on Wolfensberger Road. Turn right onto Coachline and follow this until to Ridgeline Open Space Trailhead (on the left-side of the road). There is a restroom and map at the trailhead. Alternatively, hikers can park at Bison Park in Castle Rock and access one of the several neighborhood access trails that lead into Ridgeline Open Space.

The Hike: Ridgeline Open Space

Ridgeline Open Space is one of our family's favorite places to hike because it's right in our backyard here in Castle Rock. The residents of Castle Rock also use the 13.4 miles of trail for trail running and mountain biking. It's quite a labyrinth of trails, but because it's located right in the heart of a residential area, it's hard to get lost (if you stay on the trail). There are maps posted at several junctions and trailheads along the network in the case you need to reorient yourself. Or print the map from the link above and bring it with you.

trail leading into distance with gamble oak leaves along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

Our approach is usually to go up to Ridgeline for an afternoon and see where the trails take us. You'll likely encounter mountain bikers along the trail. Most are locals and are very considerate of hikers. Less considerate are the rattlesnakes. I've yet to run into one, but my neighbor was stopped short by a rattler recently while trail running. Rattlesnakes are only aggressive when threatened, but they are easy to stumble upon because they are so well camouflaged. So, keep your eyes peeled as you hike. Mountain Lions also frequent the area--like most trails along the Front Range--because of the plentiful deer population. It's wise to always keep your kids near when hiking and not running up the trail ahead on their own. This is just good practice on any trail, but I mention it because we have seen Mountain Lion prints in the mud on one of the western trail segments.

rolling terrain and rock along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

Ridgeline is aptly named because it is situated above the town and offers great views out to Longs Peak, Indian Peaks, Mt. Evans, Devil's Head to the west, and Pikes Peak to the south. Deer bed down in the grass between the gamble oak and birds flit from tree to tree along the trails.

broad green meadows and puffy clouds along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Ridgeline Open Space Trail

  • Rattlesnakes: Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes that sun themselves on rock and the packed, warm surface of the trail.
  • Hiking with Kids: As always, hike as a group, keeping small children near you. Mountain lions live in the area (as with most front-range hikes), and the sight of a small creature running alone on the trail can signal a lion's prey response.
  • Sunscreen: This hike is 100% exposed to the sun's rays, so be sure to wear a hat and apply that sunscreen.
  • More Hikes in Castle Rock Colorado: Castle Rock Trail, Waterfall at Castlewood Canyon, East Plum Creek Trail.
  • Trail Map for Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock: 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: Crave Burgers

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


St. Vrain Mountain Hike

The St. Vrain Mountain trail is just a 3-mile hike into Indian Peaks Wilderness to stunning views of the rocky peaks of Wild Basin. Hike up and additional 1.5 miles from the RMNP boundary to the summit of St. Vrain mountain for 360-degree panoramic views of a wildflower-laden wilderness. Explore the full St. Vrain Mountain hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more.

Trail Snapshot: St. Vrain Mountain Hike

Parking & Trailhead Information for St. Vrain Mountain

parking area at st. vrain mountain trailhead in colorado aspen trees and dirt road

From Denver, take Interstate 25 to either 36 or 66 to Lyons. In Lyons, follow 7 to Allenspark. In Allenspark, turn left onto Ski Road - FR-107. This will be marked with a street sign and a home-crafted sign made out of an old pair of skis. Follow this dirt road as is weaves through Allenspark then a series of dispersed cabins for about 2 miles until the road terminates at the trailhead. There is parking for only about 8 vehicles at the trailhead. There is additional parking along the road, but make sure that you're not blocking cabin drives or tearing up the roadside. You may have to park a ways back down the road if crowded. I hiked this on the weekend and the lot was full around 8 AM. There are not restrooms or potable water at the trailhead.

The Hike: St. Vrain Mountain Trail

cascades among spruce and aspen trees on st. vrain mountain trail in colorado

The hike begins in the shade of aspen, spruce, and lodgepole pine forest. This first segment is easy and gradual, getting steeper as the sounds of distant St. Vrain Creek grow louder and closer. Wildflowers become more prevalent and soon the trail begins to follow right alongside the course of the creek.

view to southeast with green mountains along st. vrain mountain trail in colorado

Then the switchbacks begin. I hiked this in late-May after a Winter when our snowpack was below normal. So it was snow-free until around mile 2. From about mile 2 to mile 3, intermittent snow covered about 3/4 of the trail. I didn't bring snowshoes but had it been early May, I definitely would have needed a pair. Trekking poles were essential for negotiating the trail and to keep from post-holing up to my waist. It could be done without poles, but I'd definitely recommend having them.

above treeline with tundra in distance and short evergreens and blue sky along st. vrain mountain trail in colorado

At treeline, things open up to blue skies and high-country tundra brightened by the many colors of summer wildflowers. In early-May, these were just beginning to bloom. However, come mid-June, the creek alongside the trail and these upper reaches of high-country should be replete with wildflowers.

blue purple and white wildflowers along st. vrain mountain trail in colorado

Once you crest the saddle, the views are outstanding. To the Northwest, the entire Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park opens up before you. To the North, you'll find Meadow Mountain, elevation 11,632'. I met a local from Allenspark along the trail and he said the views from the summit of Meadow Mountain rival those of St. Vrain because of the perspective looking down into the Wild Basin area.

high mountain tundra with peaks of wild basin of rmnp in background along st. vrain mountain trail in colorado

At mile 3, the trail enters Rocky Mountain National Park. From this point, I could see a faint trail in the snow leading up the rounded ridgeline of St. Vrain Mountain. It's about a 1/2 mile hike from the main trail to the summit with about 700 feet of elevation gain.

man hiking up snow covered st. vrain mountain in colorado

elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Below is a photo of the map found at the trailhead. I've added a dark-black dashed line to indicate the trail that goes from the junction with the Rock Creek Trail to the summit. The lighter-grey dashed line indicates the path hikers were taking across the snow to the slopes of St. Vrain Mountain. Be sure to hike on durable surfaces (snow, rock, trails) on the summit approach to protect the fragile tundra environment.

wilderness map with trails and topographic information for indian peaks area of colorado

Tips & Resources for Hiking St. Vrain Mountain Trail

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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


golden meadow with mountains in distance at Heil Valley Ranch Near Boulder Colorado

Heil Valley Ranch Ponderosa Loop Hike

Heil Valley Ranch near Boulder offers this rewarding lollipop-loop hike which features views of distant snowcapped mountains and geological features unique to this section of Colorado. Nestled in the foothills between Boulder and Lyons this singletrack trail is a great destination for both hikers and mountain bikers. However, soil erosion has required occasional trail closures, so be sure to check out the Boulder County Open Space Twitter feed for trail conditions. Explore the full Heil Valley Ranch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Boulder County, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Heil Valley Ranch Ponderosa Loop

Parking & Trailhead Information for Heil Valley Ranch Hike

From Boulder, follow US 36 West toward Lyons, turn left onto Left Hand Canyon Drive. After 0.7 mile, turn right onto Geer Canyon Drive. After approx. 1.2 miles, you'll come around a curve and see a sign for Heil Valley Ranch. The parking area is on the right/North side of the roach.

The Hike: Ponderosa Loop at Heil Valley Ranch Trail

There are two trails located at the north end of the parking area, the Wapiti and the Lichen. For this longer loop hike, we'll be taking the Wapiti up to the Ponderosa loop. This trail is found just to the left/west of the Lichen Loop trail. These should be well-marked by signs and the Lichen loop trail will immediately cross a footbridge. The Lichen loop is a great option for families with small children being just 1.3-mile loop with about 230' of elevation gain over the course of the hike.

Trees on Heil Valley Ranch Hike near Boulder, CO

Taking the Wapiti trail, hikers will head North through a broad valley punctuated with Ponderosa Pine. After passing an intersection with the Lichen Loop, the Wapiti will soon enter the shade of more ponderosa pines as it makes its way through more rocky and steep terrain. At 2.5 miles in, the Wapiti will meet up with the Ponderosa Loop Trail.

The Ponderosa loop segment offers a great set of views, beginning with views of snowcapped peaks in the west. We recommend taking the Ponderosa loop counter-clockwise, which will take you up to a high point then back down into a beautiful meadow with views all the way out to Left-Hand Reservoir. A second overlook is gained after this section, providing great views out to Indian Peaks Wilderness and Longs Peak in the North. The trail will meet back up with the Wapiti trail for a descent back to the trailhead.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Heil Valley Ranch Trail

  • TIP: Keep alert for mountain bikers as much of the trail is singletrack and a popular mountain biking area..
  • Trail Map for Heil Valley Ranch Trail near Boulder: 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
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jonathan Reyes for sharing such great photographs of this hike at Heil Valley Ranch.
  • After the Hike: The Parkway Cafe

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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


finch lake rocky mountain national park header

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

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 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

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions
elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park


lyric falls rocky mountain national park header

Lyric Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lyric Falls is a beautiful stair-step waterfall that spills over the moss-covered granite slabs of Hunters Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park. A lesser-known waterfall, Lyric Falls requires a 3/4 mile segment on the unmaintained social trail that winds along Hunters Creek. Locating the falls may be a bit challenging and land navigation skills are needed for this hike in the Wild Basin area of RMNP. Explore the full Lyric 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: Lyric Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lyric Falls

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

The Hike: Lyric Falls Trail in RMNP

The first segment of the hike to Lyric Falls follows the Sandbeach Lake Trail for approximately 3.2 miles to the footbridge crossing Hunter's Creek. An indistinct social trail is located near the bridge on the east side of Hunter's creek. This second trail segment is 3/4 of a mile is unmaintained, which means that hikers should have a sufficient level of land navigation skills (map reading and proficiency with a compass/gps unit) to negotiate the terrain to Lyric Falls.

This .75 mile section follows the course of Hunter's Creek Northwest and uphill to the location of Lyric Falls. There is no marker for Lyric Falls, but it can be located on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map of Rocky Mountain National Park. Hikers will likely hear several smaller cascades along the way. In the same way, the cascades of Lyric Falls will be heard before seen, and the sounds of its splash and spray will be the best way to locate the falls.

A meadow bright with wildflowers can be found just bit further up Hunter's Creek beyond Lyric Falls.

Campsites Along the Lyric Falls Trail

Stay overnight and explore the larger Hunter's Creek Drainage. There are several Backcountry Camping sites along the Sandbeach Lake Trail: Hole-in-the-Wall, Campers Creek, Beaver Mill, and Sandbeach Lake. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. Staying overnight, hikers can then explore Lyric Falls, Sandbeach Lake, and this lesser hiked area of the Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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 Lyric Falls in RMNP

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

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park


Ypsilon Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park Ypsilon Hike

Ypsilon Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Ypsilon Falls is a tiered waterfall hidden along the northern shore of Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The 4.5 mile hike to this secluded waterfall follows the Ypsilon Lake trail, a demanding trek through the thick woods of the Mummy Range. Explore the full Ypsilon 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: Ypsilon Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Falls

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

The Hike: Ypsilon Falls Trail in RMNP

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

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

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

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

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

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 Ypsilon Falls in RMNP

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

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park


sandbeach lake rocky mountain national park header

Sandbeach Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Sandbeach Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Sandbeach Lake

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

The Hike: Sandbeach Lake Trail in RMNP

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

Campsites Along the Sandbeach Lake Trail

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

01-sandbeach-lake-rocky-mountain-national-park

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP

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

elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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


alpine lake with mount ypsilon in background with blue skies and clouds in rocky mountain national park hike

Ypsilon Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Lake

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

The Hike: Ypsilon Lake Trail in RMNP

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

ypsilon lake trail rocky mountain national park

Ypsilon Lake Trail - Courtesy of Marco Becerra

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

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

03-ypsilon-hike-rmnp-chipmunk-lake

Chipmunk Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Brendan Bombaci.

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

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

elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP

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

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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