Pearl Lake State Park, Steamboat Lake’s sister park, sits tucked into a mountain valley northwest of Steamboat Springs. The small park, with 105 water acres and 169 land acres, is a serene playground. The lake, named for early settler M. Pearl Hartt, brings recreationists for fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and picnicking. All boats must observe a wakeless speed, making the lake ideal for hand-paddled watercraft. Fishing for feisty cutthroat trout is by lures and flies only, with a two-fish limit. A 36-site campground borders the western edge of the lake and two yurts are for rent. Also check out the wildlife viewing deck to glimpse the park’s birds and mammals, or to enjoy the warm mountain sun.
- Pearl Lake is designated as Gold Medal waters for its thriving cutthroat trout population, as well as brook and brown trout and grayling. All fishing is by flies and artificial lures only; no bait fishing. There’s a two-fish bag limit and each must be over 18 inches long.
- Pearl Lake offers great boating on a mountain lake. All motorboats must be wakeless, making the lake ideal for kayaks, canoes, and windsurfs. The lake is open from May 1 to November 1 for boating.
- Several short hikes let you experience the quiet lake. The Pearl Lake Connection Trail travels 0.6 miles from the campground to the dam on the west side of the lake. Return the same way for a 1.2-mile hike. Keep alert for wildlife, including over 200 bird species, mule deer, porcupine, pine squirrel, beaver, and muskrat. Sand hill cranes are seen in the spring nesting in the willows.
- Pearl Lake State Park is open all winter when heavy snow, usually over 300 inches annually, blankets the mountains. All of the park roads and facilities are closed but you can park near the entrance and snowshoe, cross-country ski, or snowmobile to the lake. Ice fishing is popular.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green