This hike to Lion Lakes in the Wild Basin region of Rocky Mountain National Park is a superb route into some of the park's incredible high-country terrain. Wild Basin is just south of Longs Peak, so hiking and backpacking here brings visitors near to three of Rocky Mountain National Park's highest peaks. Rimmed to the north by 13,579-foot Chief's Head Peak, the park's third-highest peak, and 13,310-foot Mount Alice to the west, hiking trails in the Wild Basin course through one of the park's most stunning and secluded regions.
The hike to Lion Lakes is longer than 13 miles, so start at the Wild Basin Trailhead early. On the way up, use the alternative route passing several campsites to trim 0.7 miles from your route. Rejoin the Thunder Lake Trail and continue toward the Lion Lakes junction. The trail thins considerably from here; hiking trails in other parts of the park are more popular, and minimal visitation makes for tricky route finding at times, especially in the snow. Keep an eye out for cairns and sawed logs, which will help you keep to your route when necessary.
With Lion Lake 1 at 11,080 feet, the Lion Lakes are among the highest lakes in the park that are accessible by trail. Experienced hikers and backpackers will find an alpine playground here. Explore the lush grasses and wildflowers of alpine meadows in summer or push off-trail to Trio Falls, scaling a rock wall to reach Lion Lake 2 and Snowbank Lake.
On the descent, avoid the alternative route and swing past Ouzel Falls and Calypso Cascades. These features are are at their best during spring snowmelt. Pass towering granite cliffs, boulder outcrops and aspen groves, which, like the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park, will be spectacular during the autumn. Also in evidence are areas affected by the 1978 Ouzel Fire, which burned 1,050 acres and is the largest in park history. Take some time to explore viewpoints along the way that overlook the mountains that rim Wild Basin: Copeland Mountain (13,176 feet), Ouzel Peak (12,716 feet), Mahana Peak (12,632 feet), Tanima Peak (12,420 feet), Mount Alice, Chief's Head Peak, and Mount Orton (11,724 feet). Climbers may choose to make good use of the many boulders along the way. And keep an eye out for bears!