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Pear Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Pear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Pear Lake

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

The Hike: Pear Lake Trail in RMNP

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

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

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

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

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The Rushing Stream of Pear Creek

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

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

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Pear Lake in RMNP

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

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Finch Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Finch Lake is a 4.5 mile hike through pines, aspen glades, and wildflower laden meadows to a sub-alpine lake where the forest surrounds its shores. The Finch Lake trail is a great choice for those who prefer solitude as it's one of the lesser traveled trails in the Wild Basin region of RMNP. Explore the full Finch Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Finch Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park</h2

Parking & Trailhead Information for Finch Lake

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

The Hike: Finch Lake Trail in RMNP

The hike up to the Lake is a steady climb through a forest of pine, aspen, spruce, and meadows laden with wildflowers. It begins with a set of switchbacks then follows the contours of a moraine. After gaining the ridge of the moraine, the trail begins a gentle descent through one of Rocky Mountain National Park's most stunning displays of wildflowers. Near the bottom of the moraine, just above Fox Creek, the trail will come to its first junction. The the trail to the right/west leads towards both the lake (the left/east trail leads to the Allenspark Trailhead). Climbing higher, the trail will pass an overlook with views of the distant mountain peaks and the greater Wild Basin area.

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

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

At the Lake the trail wraps around the eastern edge, then the northern shore of the lake. During midsummer, swarms of bright blue dragonflies dance along its waters. The Finch Lake backcountry camping sites are located on the north and northwestern side. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices.

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

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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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Lawn Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lawn Lake

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

The Hike: Lawn Lake Trail in RMNP

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

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

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

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lawn Lake in RMNP

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

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Bluebird Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bluebird Lake is a 6 mile hike to an alpine lake surrounded by craggy peaks in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park. Add an additional 1/2 mile spur trail to reach great trout fishing at Ouzel Lake. Hikers will enjoy panoramic views of the Wild Basin and the sites and sounds of several cascade waterfalls along the way. Wildflowers, waterfalls, and lakes await, so explore the full Bluebird 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: Bluebird Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bluebird 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: Bluebird Lake Trail in RMNP

With an elevation gain of over 2400' over 6 miles of trail, the hike up to Bluebird Lake in RMNP is demanding, but not without its rewards. The hike to Bluebird Lake begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, then winds through the central region of the Wild Basin, passing three cascade waterfalls along the way, and a fourth unnamed waterfall in the meadows above Ouzel Lake.

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

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

Having taken the left-hand trail, the path soon crosses North St. Vrain Creek on a log bridge, one that recently was rebuilt to replace the bridge that washed out during the 2013 floods. An unnamed cascade can be viewed from the bridge area. Soon after the bridge, the trail meets with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. Taking the right-hand trail, the cascades (named after the purple orchids that grow along the creek) come into view. The path crosses a second bridge at 1.8 miles and begins a challenging climb as the trail weaves through a set of switchbacks up to Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles.

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Calypso Cascades - Courtesy of Jeff Kramer.

At 0.4 mile beyond Ouzel Falls, the trail comes to a junction with the Bluebird Lake trail; this is 3.1 miles into the hike, approximately half-way to Bluebird Lake. This new trail begins a steady climb up a ridgeline, through an area burned out by a fire that started from a lightning strike back in 1978. Yet the almost 40 years have brought some change to the landscape. Wildflowers decorate the hillsides, and new trees have come back and begun to establish themselves on the mountainsides.

At 4.5 miles, there is a marked trail spur that leads to Ouzel lake. This 1/2 mile spur takes hikers to some of the best fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park! Of course, a Colorado State fishing license is required. A hike down this spur to Ouzel, will add another 1 to this hike to Bluebird, and it may be a good idea to visit Ouzel on the way back, after judging the conditions of the skies. From the Ouzel Spur junction, Bluebird Lake is just 1.6 miles further, but 1000' in elevation higher, making this part of the hike the most challenging. An unnamed waterfall can be viewed just in the meadows past Chickadee Pond (the small pond just past the trail Ouzel Lake trail spur).

Crossing boulder fields and snow, the trail can be difficult to discern at times, and hikers can keep track of the trail by keeping a look out for cairns (stacked rocks marking the trail). Near the sign for the Upper Ouzel Creek campsite, the trail will cross Ouzel Creek and begin a very steep climb up to Bluebird Lake. Bluebird Lake does not have fish, but it makes up for it with the views, particularly the rugged face of Ouzel Peak in the southwest.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Bluebird Lake in RMNP

  • Too Long of A Hike?: Because this is a 12 mile round-trip hike--13 miles if you add in Ouzel Lake--it may be best to make this hike a part of a larger overnight adventure. Reserve one of the two backcountry camping sites along the Bluebird Trail to spend some time fishing Ouzel Lake and exploring the other destinations along the trail. Contact the RMNP Wilderness Offices to reserve a site.
  • Summer Thunderstorms: If you see clouds with dark undersides building in the west, this means that thunderstorms are likely--a typical occurrence on most summer days. Begin hikes early to avoid storms and consider turning back if weather looks threatening.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • You're in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, and dispose of your food responsibly.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Erik Wolf for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Bluebird Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Sandbeach Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Sandbeach Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Sandbeach Lake

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

The Hike: Sandbeach Lake Trail in RMNP

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

Campsites Along the Sandbeach Lake Trail

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP

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

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Ypsilon Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Lake

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

The Hike: Ypsilon Lake Trail in RMNP

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

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Ypsilon Lake Trail - Courtesy of Marco Becerra

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

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

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Chipmunk Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Brendan Bombaci.

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

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP

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

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Lion Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Lion Lake #1 in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lion Lake

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

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

The Hike: Lion Lake #1 Trail in RMNP

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

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

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

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

Having taken the left-hand trail, you'll cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Pause when you hear the sounds of an unnamed cascade that can be viewed from the bridge area. Soon after the bridge, the trail will meet with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. Taking the right-hand trail, hikers will soon encounter the sight and spray of the cascades. Then trail will cross over another bridge at 1.8 miles, then things begin to get more challenging, as the trail weaves through a set of switchbacks to Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles. Ouzel Falls, while not large when compared to Alberta or Fern Falls, may be one of the most stunning waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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

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

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

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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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Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

Cub Lake Loop Hike Waypoints

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

Parking & Trailhead Information for Cub Lake Loop

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

The Hike to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

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

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

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

cub lake loop rocky mountain national park the pool

The Pool - Courtesy of Steve Wallace

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

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

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

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Cub Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Barbara Morgan

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • TIP: Take advantage of the free park shuttle to get to the trailhead during peak seasons.
  • Bring A Picnic Lunch: The banks along the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Bug Spray: Because of the amount of water along this hike, hikers will likely encounter a fair share of mosquitos; so, bring some bug spray.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Andrew Mace for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Lake Helene Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Lake Helene is a popular lake hike beginning at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lake Helene is situated in a bowl beneath Flattop Mountain, Ptarmigan Point, and Notchtop Mountain. The trail weaves through aspen groves and pine forests with scenic mountain views at almost every turn. Explore the full Lake Helene hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lake Helene in RMNP

The trail up to Lake Helene begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). In the event the parking lot at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike: Lake Helene in RMNP

The trail to the is located along the perimeter trail of Bear Lake, and on the northeastern end of the lake. This short .4 mile trail will connect up with the Flattop Mountain trail. After hiking .5 mile on the Flattop Mountain Trail, the trail will fork. The trail to the left, leads up to Flattop Mountain. The trail to the right leads to the lake, and then on to Odessa and Fern Lake.

It's a moderate ascent as the trail climbs approximately 2 more miles up to Odessa Gorge. At this point there is an unmaintained trail off to the left that leads hikers to Lake Helene. Because this spur trail travels over quite a bit of rock and becomes difficult to discern, the route is marked by a series of cairns (stacked rocks).

After enjoying time at the lake, hikers may want to go 1.1 mile further north on the main trail to Odessa Lake.

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

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Odessa Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Trail Snapshot: Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Odessa Lake in RMNP

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

The Hike: Odessa Lake in RMNP

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

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Return and Alternate Route Options

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

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

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

Sights & Waypoints Along the Fern Lake Trail:

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

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

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