Fern Lake Hike – Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park – Trail Map, Pictures, Directions & More

by

Article Categories: Hiking


Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Notice: Undefined variable: i in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/hikingandfishing/public/wp-content/plugins/kmr-nws-wx/view/layout.php on line 49

Fern Lake is a gorgeous lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike features views along the Big Thompson River, fishing options, and is commonly combined with Odessa Lake. The most common route begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead and is accessible year round (Add .6 miles each way during winter for road closures).

Difficulty – Intermediate
Distance – 7.4 miles miles round trip (11.9 km)
Elevation – 9,540 feet (2,907.8 meters)
Elevation gain – 1,400 feet (426.7 meters)
Duration – 4-6 hours (book time)
Seasons – Year-round
Trailhead Location – Fern Lake Trailhead

Need to know: Dogs are not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Map

Fern Lake Trail Map

Fern Lake Trail Map

Trails

The most common route to Fern Lake begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead (directions below)

Fern Lake Trailhead | 7.4 Miles | 1,400 Feet Elevation Gain

This route is the most direct route to Fern Lake. If the Fern Lake Trailhead is filled, there is parking along the road, and another parking lot for winter access .6 miles from the trailhead (parking here will add .6 miles each way).

The first 1.7 miles is relatively flat all the way to “The Pools”. The trail is well traveled, and easy to follow. Hikers will also pass by some unique and beautiful rock formations on the trail 1.2 miles in known as Arch Rocks (seen below).

Right after the pools is the junction between the Fern Lake Trail and the Mill Creek Trail. Hikers should head to the right. The trail begins to ascend more rapidly at this point for the next 2 miles with switchbacks.

3.7 miles into the hike, hikers will reach the junction for Spruce Lake. Only a couple hundred feet from this junction lies Fern Lake.

Bear Lake Trailhead | 9.2 Miles| 1,900 Feet Elevation Gain

If hikers are looking for scenic route to see multiple lakes before Fern Lake, this may be a great option.

After .5 miles, hikers will reach a junction. The right leads towards Bierstadt Lake, and the left towards Mill Creek Basin and Odessa Lake. Take this left turn. Hikers quickly ascend and experience great views of the surrounding peaks, including Longs Peak.

.5 miles after this junction, (1 mile into the hike) there will be another junction. The left heads towards Flattop Mountain on the Flattop Mountain Trail, the right towards Odessa Lake. Hikers should bear right at this junction.

For the next mile, hikers ascend a bit, but are rewarded with fantastic views of surrounding mountains.

3.2 miles into the hike, there is an unmarked junction leading to Lake Helene, yet another gorgeous lake. Past this junction for the next .5 miles or so hikers descend a little bit and experience great views of surrounding mountains, like Little Matterhorn, which looms over Odessa Lake.

Hikers will reach Odessa Lake just shy of 4.5 miles into the hike. Fern Lake lies .9 miles passed Odessa Lake, and several hundred feet below. Hikers will retrace back the way they came after reaching Fern Lake.

Hiking Odessa Lake in Winter

The Fern Lake Trailhead is closed during winter months, adding .6 miles each way (1.2 miles) roundtrip during winter months.

Both trailheads are still fantastic options during winter months. Both don’t contain any very seriously steep sections, making this a great winter hike from either direction. Microspikes are always recommended, and snowshoes may be needed depending upon current weather conditions.

Fishing Odessa Lake

When departing from the Fern Lake Trailhead, the Big Thompson has great fishing opportunities. Many anglers try out “The Pools” along the way as well (marked on map). Odessa features a great population of greenback cutthroat trout.

Camping Information

There are various camping options near Fern Lake. You can see them marked on the map above. In order to camp in Rocky Mountain National Park, a backcountry permit is needed. A permit can be obtained at the Park Headquarters Backcountry Office at Beaver Meadows, or at the Visitor Center in Estes Park or at Kawuneeche Visitors Center. You can also obtain permits online here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm

You can find information on each tent site on this hike from this page: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/site_details.htm

Directions & Parking

These are two large parking lots (bear lake trailhead the biggest), but these are extremely popular areas. Parking fills up extremely quickly on nice days. In many cases, hikers will need to use the National Park shuttle system to get to these trailheads during the busy months. Information on this can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/shuttle_bus_route.htm 

To Fern Lake Trailhead

To Bear Lake Trailhead

Current Weather Conditions

Here is a detailed weather forecast:

Estes Park, CO

Tonight
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly clear. Low around 5, with temperatures rising to around 11 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -18. West wind 21 to 29 mph, with gusts as high as 44 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Saturday
Patchy blowing snow before 11am, then a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow. Partly sunny. High near 29, with temperatures falling to around 25 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -7. West southwest wind around 21 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of around one inch possible.

Saturday Night
A chance of snow and patchy blowing snow before 11pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy. Low around 22, with temperatures rising to around 25 overnight. West southwest wind 21 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Sunday
Patchy blowing snow before 5pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 33. West southwest wind 20 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Sunday Night
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow before 11pm, then snow likely and patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 24. West wind 24 to 28 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Monday
Snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 29. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Monday Night
Snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Additional Pictures

Views of Fern Lake

Approaching Odessa Lake

Approaching Odessa Lake

Rock Formations on Fern Lake Trail

Rock Formations on Fern Lake Trail

The Pools

The Pools

Odessa Lake Views

Odessa Lake Views

Fern Lake, Bear Lake, and Odessa Lake Trail Sign

Fern Lake, Bear Lake, and Odessa Lake Trail Sign

Fern Lake Tent Sites

Fern Lake Tent Sites

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about

Follow Hiking and Fishing

Useful info for spending more time in beautiful places.

Check Out Our Beautiful Colorado Posters

Snowmass Lake, Colorado Poster

Colorado 14er Maps On Amazon