The Finch Lake trail
Starting Elevation: 8526Ft
Highest Elevation: 10,165 ( Total Elevation gain around 1900Ft)
Trail Length: Officially 8.2 miles but we wandered around the lake a lot so we ended up with 9 miles total, it took us approx. 4 hours total
Trail Uses: Hiker only
Degree of difficulty: Moderate
Pets: Not allowed, as this is all in Rocky Mountain National Park
Fees: None at this trail head location(one of the reasons I chose it)
When I was looking for a hike to hit this weekend, I needed something with some views, around 10K at its highest point and 8-9 miles in length. I had not yet really dug into my Lakes Hiking book from Colorado Mountain Club and this was a great opportunity to see what it had to offer. Finch Lake did not disappoint and surprisingly, for none of the reason I initially chose it.
I was honestly surprised at how hard my hikes had been the week before, I mean I knew it always takes me a minute to re-acclimate when I travel back to sea level but I thought with all I had accomplished so far I would bounce back more quickly. The blister situation had improved over the course of the week prior but were still a significant issue. I was pretty depressed about the fact that we were once again starting low to work our way back up to another 14er after finally climbing our fist one just a month earlier. I manged to get over myself pretty quickly because the fact is, these mountains will be around much longer then I will, but if I don’t take care of me now I won’t get to see as much of them as they invitingly offer up to me each week.
I got up insanely early Saturday, 4AM, because the weather forecast said that rain chances would increase even earlier then usual, around 11AM, and I wanted to make sure we got to the lake and were well on our return before any hit. We started hiking at 7AM and while there were a few cars already in the parking lot, we only crossed paths with a few other hikers almost the whole way to the lake.
The first mile is pretty much through dense forest, in fact maybe the most dense forest I have seen since I started hiking in Colorado. It was like hiking through a Grimm fairytale. We met our first trail break at a little under a mile in and stayed left, the trail is really well marked so we had no problems following it correctly to our final destination. As we climbed a little out of the heavy denseness, the views started to show themselves, it was all Mt. Meeker & Long’s Peak on our right just getting better and better as we continued on.
At the next trail break, we took advantage of a little outcropping to get some good pictures of the view, we were 2.2 miles away from the lake. While we were snapping away, another hiker moved on down the trail we had been on. At the time we didn’t think much about it, but I have to tell you when we passed him, I got the most creeped out I have ever been on a hike. There was not really anything outwardly odd about him but what he was putting off just wasn’t right. I used to be a victim advocate for victims of violent crime and I always listen to my gift of fear, the next 1.5 miles were a blur for me as we huffed and puffed to get as far away from him, as quickly as we could. At one point I was considering what my options for protection were if attacked. What changed at mile 1.5 you may wonder….. trail maintenance, there were 3 National Park workers improving the trail. It was an immediate relief and we never saw the hiker again.
As we got closer to the lake, we saw the option to carry on to Pear lake another 2.2 miles ahead.
Since this wasn’t an option for us today, we explored the area around the lake. It as incredibly marshy and at first the bugs were not really aware of us but then I got one quick bite and that little monster must have rang a dinner bell because I was swarmed and attacked mercilessly. I actually squealed as I ran away from my marshy perch, barely grabbing my pack en route.
We started seeing more people around the lake coming and going up to either the camp sites or Pear Lake but from what I have read, this is a hidden gem in RMNP and so gets much less traffic then all the other lakes in the park. It’s true, while we did see an increase in traffic after 9AM, it was one of the lighter trafficked hikes we have done lately. Plus the no fee entrance was a huge bonus!
We turned around and headed back the way we came. It was like a brand new trail now that there were more people out an about and we were not trying to get away from someone. The surrounding mountains looked even more beautiful ( if that is possible) on the way back and something had shifted in the atmosphere so that Long’s Peak, Mt. Meeker and their neighbors looked extra close, like we could reach out and touch them close. I LOVE when that happens.
We ended up taking almost as long to get back because we stopped a lot to take pictures of all we missed on our rush through mile 1.8-3.5. We finished up the last little bit as it started to thunder, our timing was almost perfect as the rain started up on our way to Oskar Blues Grill & Brew for our little victory dance.
This is a beautiful hike and one I know we will likely do again soon so we can see Pear lake. I also think we are going to start dipping our toes into backpacking and this looks like a perfect trail to test our resolve on. One of the best things was that we were in Rocky Mountain National Park the whole time without all the RMNP crowds or the fee to get to a trail head and it was breathtakingly beautiful! As always, my favorite pictures after the directions.
Directions: From Hwy 66 west into Lyons, At the Y intersection in Lyons, turn left on Highway 7 toward Allenspark. About 18.5 miles turn left on Business Route 7/Allenspark. (Don’t take the first Business Route 7 into Ferncliffe.) 0.1 of a mile, turn right on County Road 90 (just before the post office). Travel 1.5 miles to a fork in the road. (There are several, but stay on the main road) At 1.5 miles, take the right fork, travel 0.1 of a mile to the trailhead on your right. There is a sign that says “Allenspark Trailhead.”