|Trail Features:||Scenic Lake Views, Fall Aspens|
|Trail Location:||Finch Lake Trailhead|
|Roundtrip Length:||8.6 Miles|
|Trailhead Elevation:||8470 Feet|
|Total Elevation Gain:||1850 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||430 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||10,114 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||12.30 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||40.20844|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-105.5610|
The hike to Finch Lake begins from the fairly remote Finch Lake Trailhead in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park, located near the small communities of Meeker Park and Allenspark. To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, drive 12.6 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Wild Basin Road junction and turn right. After driving four-tenths of a mile, make another right turn into the park. The Finch Lake Trailhead is located roughly 1.8 miles from the park turn-off on a narrow, two-wheel drive gravel road.
Almost right from the start the trail begins with a stiff climb up a ridge, gaining roughly 485 feet in just eight-tenths of a mile. Fortunately this section of the trail offers quite a few spring and early summer wildflowers along the way, including several columbines.
Once at the top of the ridge the trail begins tracing through a very beautiful montane forest. You'll pass quite a few ponderosa pines, as well as several groves of aspens, making this a great choice for a fall hike. In fact, this entire hike passes through a very beautiful and pristine wilderness.
At roughly 1.3 miles hikers will arrive at the first trail junction of the day. The trail branching off towards the left leads to the Meadow Mountain Ranch. The trail that continues straight ahead eventually links-up with the Allenspark Trail. To continue on towards Finch Lake hikers should proceed towards the right at this junction.
At just over 1.9 miles hikers will reach an opening in the canopy that offers an outstanding view of 13,911-foot Mount Meeker towards the northwest.
Hikers will reach the second trail junction on this hike roughly 2.3 miles from the trailhead. The trail branching off towards the left leads back to the Allenspark Trailhead. The trail veering off towards the right leads to Calypso Cascades, while the trail proceeding straight ahead continues on towards Finch Lake.
At roughly 2.5 miles from the trailhead you'll begin passing through a section of trail that was burned by the Ouzel Fire, which was started by a lightning strike on August 9, 1978. Because it was in a low risk zone the national park allowed the low intensity fire to smolder. However, five weeks later, on September 15th, Chinook winds exceeding 30 MPH whipped the fire out of control and threatened the small town of Allenspark. The wildfire was finally brought under control by September 30th, but wasn't fully extinguished until December 4th! In all, the Ouzel Fire burned more than a thousand acres, making it one of the largest wildfires in Rocky Mountain National Park history.
At almost 3.9 miles hikers will cross a footbridge over the stream that eventually feeds Calypso Cascades further down the mountain. Shortly thereafter the trail begins making a sharp descent down towards Finch Lake.
At 4.3 miles hikers will finally reach Finch Lake. This beautiful subalpine lake offers great views of 13,138-foot Ogalalla Peak and 13,176-foot Mt. Copeland off towards the west.
From the northeastern shore hikers will have the option of circling around the north side of the lake. However, the best views are from the lake's eastern shore. Simply walk about 20 or 30 yards towards your left once you arrive at the lake for the most scenic vantage points.
This hike appears to be a really good trail for spotting wildlife. We saw a couple of moose at the trailhead in the morning, as well as two of the biggest jackrabbits that I’ve ever seen. We also saw deer tracks over many portions of the trail, and actually had a deer circle around us as we ate lunch up at Pear Lake. Along the shore of Finch Lake we had a front row seat as a mallard came in for a landing. We even had a nesting woodpecker chirp at us fairly aggressively. With her nest being so close to the trail, she apparently didn't like us being around.
If you still have plenty of energy and wish to explore more of the terrain in this part of the park, you will have the option of continuing on to Pear Lake, which would require another 2.1 miles hiking and another 730 feet of elevation gain to reach from this point.