Fern Lake Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 80517

Elevation Gain4,618ft
Trailhead Elevation8,156ft
Elevation Min/Max8150/10700ft
Elevation Start/End8156/8156ft

Fern Lake Trail

Fern Lake Trail is a hiking trail in Larimer County, Colorado. It is within Rocky Mountain National Park. It is 7.3 miles long and begins at 8,156 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 14.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 4,618 feet. The Fern Lake Trailhead parking and the Doctor Thornton R Sampson Grave (elevation 8,146 feet) grave yard are near the trailhead. Along the trail there are camp sites and waters. This trail connects with the following: Lake Helene Trail, Cub Lake Trail, Spruce Lake Unimproved Trail and Flat Top Mountain Trail.

Fern Lake Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Afoot & Afield: Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Rocky Mountain National Park (Wilderness Press)
Alan Apt and Kay Turnbaugh
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"This trail can be used for a short, easy hike just to the featured lake or a major adventure by starting at Moraine Park and finishing at Bear Lake. If you do that, start early to avoid storms, and use a car shuttle or the park shuttle. You can also use this trailhead to climb all the way up to Odessa Lake another 500 feet in elevation and 0.6 mile beyond Fern Lake. That part of the trail is very steep and makes the trek a moderate to challenging hike if you then go all the way to or return from Bear Lake." Read more
Best Hikes with Kids Colorado (The Mountaineers Books)
Maureen Keilty
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"The trail to Fern Lake features the park’s “best of” attractions for hikes with kids: monster-size rocks to wander among, a log bridge spanning a deep pool in the Big Thompson River, a mist-spewing waterfall, and a lake promising fishing fun." Read more
Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado (Falcon Guides)
Susan Joy Paul
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"Five waterfalls pour through Odessa Gorge, west of Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. The first falls, “Windy Gulch Cascades,” is hidden off the trail and fueled by an unnamed source. “Spruce Creek Falls” tumbles past, in long leaps below the trail. Fern Falls roars over a trailside cliff, protected by dense, green shrubs and Engelmann spruce; and Marguerite Falls is not easily accessed by any trail, but the upper leaps may be enjoyed, downstream from Fern Lake." Read more
Day & Overnight Hikes: Rocky Mountain National Park (Menasha Ridge Press)
Kim Lipker
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"The Old Forest Inn Campsite is the best backcountry site for first-time campers. It’s in proximity to Bear Lake access, without the Bear Lake crowds. The beauty of the campsites here attest to the perfect location of an old inn that no longer exists. This hike also offers plenty of easy, yet scenic miles and even more miles of leg-burning uphill. The ascents are rewarded, of course, with the amazing water shows of Marguerite Falls and Fern Falls, and Fern Lake itself. Take the whole family on this outing, camp, split up according to fitness level, and get exploring." Read more
Colorado Powder Ghost Towns (Wilderness Press)
Peter Bronski
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"Fern Lake is great for an outing to a spectacular location. It has more of a feel of exploration than of visiting an old ski area. Going there today must feel much like it did when the original CMC members made their outings decades ago. Fern Lake is unique in this book, in the sense that it never had lift service of any type, but it is included for its historical significance. The beginnings of skiing at Fern Lake date back to 1909, when Dr. William J. Workman—from Ashland, Kansas—traveled to Colorado and built a lodge at his favorite fishing location, Fern Lake. The original lodge was constructed during 1910, and completed by 1911. Up to 500 guests visited the lodge each winter, and every guest was asked to sign a red leather-bound log book. Eventually, adjoining and nearby smaller cabins and tents were added." Read more

Fern Lake Trail Reviews

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Stunning! We started at the Fern Lake TH and looped over to Bear Lake. You can very easily pick up the free park shuttle (though you have to take 2 of them) back to your car. Some good elevation gain, great views, lots of water on the Fern Lake side of things, and surprise waterfalls (some are obvious another you have to keep your eyes out for). Plan for a full day to do the loop, especially if you want to enjoy some lake time. And you will rise above treeline for a while more towards the 2nd half if you hike this direction, so hope your weather holds. You will love this hike, but bring your bug goop.

Fern Lake Trail Photos

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Trail Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Nearby City
Rocky Mountain National Park
Additional Use
For current conditions and more information, contact Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, www.nps.gov/romo or (970) 586-1206
Local Contacts
Rocky Mountain National Park brochure; USGS McHenrys Peak
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018