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    Fern Lake Trail

    Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
    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.

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    Arvada, CO
    Ranger | 2814 pts
    3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars
    I did this trail as a loop, starting at the Cub Lake trailhead (because that is where the winter gate is) and then following the Fern Lake trail all the way to Fern Lake and backtracking the same way I went in but I picked up the Cub Lake trail where both trails intersect (near the Pool) and followed the Cub Lake trail all the way back to the trailhead. Total distance is 10.4 miles and it took me 5h with a short lunch break (about 30 min) at Fern Lake. I thought I would need snowshoes or spikes but wound up not needing anything because the trail was either mud or packed snow with a few icy patches. Not a particularly hard or scenic trail but Fern Lake is nice and it has nice views. In the summer (July 31, 2018) I also did a similar trail starting at Bear Lake, going to Fern Lake and then taking the Fern Lake trail back to the trailhead. This required a shuttle using the RMNP bus system. I parked at the Park and Ride and took the bus to the Bear Lake trailhead and then took another bus back to the Park and Ride from a bus stop near the Fern Lake trailhead. This is 9.2 miles and it took me 5.5 h with lunch at Fern Lake. This time of the year the trail was crowded and the crowds in the buses were large. Starting at Bear Lake also involved walking around a lot of people but the large crowds thinned after 5 min on the trail to Fern Lake. Not particularly hard or scenic but I did see an elk on the way up and also a mother and baby moose pair at Fern Lake.
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    Boulder, CO
    Explorer | 30 pts
    5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
    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 Professional Guides

    Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

    "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
    "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
    Susan Joy Paul
    "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
    "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
    "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

    Trail Information

    Rocky Mountain National Park
    Nearby City
    Rocky Mountain National Park
    Trail Guides

    Best Hikes with Kids Colorado


    Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado


    Colorado Powder Ghost Towns

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

    Trail Log