Head up into the deep forest of Wild Basin and experience the silence of the wilderness. This trail passes through a large burn area before descending to beautiful Finch Lake tucked into the trees. It then climbs up to near tree line where Pear Lake lies surrounded by rugged peaks.
- Distance RT: 11.4 miles
- Difficulty: 240
- Hiking Time: 7 hours and 35 minutes
- Time to Go: morning departure
- Season: mid-June until first snow
- Primary Ecosystems: montane and subalpine
- Views: mountain lake with towering peaks, deep forest, small streams, views across to Longs Peak
- Possible Wildlife: dusky grouse, gray jays, Abert squirrels, moose
- Trail Conditions: well maintained and easy to follow, though some sections are very rocky
- Reminder: This is a long hike, so bring plenty of food, water, and a way to filter additional water.
- Elevation Start: 8,914'
- Highest Point: 10,605'
- Total RT Gain: 2,518’
- Trailhead: This hike begins at the Finch Lake Trailhead in Wild Basin.
The trail heads straight into the woods and begins to climb almost immediately. It then turns to the east running parallel to the valley as it climbs. You’ll head upward and eastward for just under a mile with a couple of nice view points along the way. When trail takes a sharp right turn it finally levels out and continues level for quite a while as it heads through a delightful aspen grove. The trail then reaches its first intersection. Continue straight. Climb through deep woods while climbing numerous stairs along the way.
Eventually you’ll reach an intersection known by locals as “Confusion Junction.” Here, two trails cross each other at an angle, making it easy to feel a bit confused about which way to turn. Continue straight uphill (south-heading trail), following the sign toward Finch and Pear lakes. From here the trail begins to climb farther up and enters a burn area left by a large wildfire in 1978, known as the Ouzel Fire. Much of this area burned so hot that it was many years before plants were able to regain a foothold. Today, vegetation is back and there are even a few trees that are twenty feet tall or more. Slowly the forest is returning, but for now you can still enjoy open views to the north looking out to Longs Peak and Mount Meeker. After a short while you leave the burn area and reenter the older-growth forest. The trail levels out and follows the top edge of the valley, providing occasional views through the trees. This gentle stretch gives you a chance to catch your breath and enjoy the subalpine forest. On one of my last walks through this area, I spotted a dusky grouse watching me just off the trail.
At 3.6 miles the trail begins to slowly descend, soon crossing a log bridge over a small stream. Then it begins a steep descent with two switchbacks, arriving at beautiful little Finch Lake tucked into the forest. When you reach the Finch Lake sign, you’ll find a path leading down to the shore. Here you can enjoy views toward Copeland Mountain. Be sure to take time to find a rock and sit in the stillness in this incredibly peaceful setting.
To continue on to Pear Lake, go back to the Finch Lake sign and head west (left). The trail continues along the north side of the lake. The trail here is level and provides some nice views of the lake through the trees. You’ll pass by a few trails on your right leading to campsites. Stay to your left and you’ll remain on the main trail. After it passes the end of the lake the trail heads into the forest.
It soon crosses a bridge over Cony Creek and continues upward through the forest. About half a mile later the trail climbs very steeply up the side of a hill. This is the steepest climb of the entire hike. Fortunately there are no more big climbs after this one.
At nearly five miles there is a small pond on the south side that looks like ideal moose habitat. Keep your eyes open! It is possible that you could encounter them anywhere in this area and you’ll want to give moose a very wide berth.
Soon the landscape begins to open up on your left side (south) providing views out toward Saint Vrain and Meadow mountains. Then you’ll cross another stream coming out of Pear Lake. At this point you are nearly there. During the last stretch the trees begin to thin out and the terrain begins to look more alpine. There is a sense of release as the thick forest gives way to more open sky. During the summer this meadow is often filled with wildflowers.
Finally the trail leads you through a narrow gap in a group of trees and as you come through the other side, Pear Lake appears before you. This large alpine lake lies just down the hill from where you are standing. It is surrounded by Ogallala Peak and Copeland Mountain, which tower above it. From here follow the sandy path down to the edge of the lake and find a rock to sit on as you soak in the dramatic beauty of this special place.