Odessa Lake is a gorgeous intermediate level lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike features views along the Big Thompson River, fishing options, and amazing views of surrounding mountains. This hike has 2 common routes, both taking you past other lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Both routes are described below.
Difficulty – Intermediate
Distance – 8.9 miles miles round trip (14.32 km)
Elevation – 10,055 feet (3,064.8 meters)
Elevation gain – 1,900 feet (579.1 meters)
Duration – 5-7 hours (book time)
Seasons – Year-round
Trailhead Location – Fern Lake Trailhead or Bear Lake Trailhead
Need to know: Dogs are not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park.
There are two common starting locations for this hike, both are below:
Bear Lake Trailhead | 8.9 Miles| 1,900 Feet Elevation Gain
This is considered by some to be the more scenic route to Odessa lake, though both options are fantastic. Hikers will start along the Bear Lake Loop Trail heading to the right side of bear lake. 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 Trailhead | 9.2 Miles | 1,890 Feet Elevation Gain
This route is preferred if hikers also want to experience Fern Lake, want to do some fishing along the Big Thompson, or want to view some of the other nearby lakes, like Spruce Lake. The trailhead here has less parking, and is less packed than the bear lake trailhead, but still fills up fast. 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 (seen below).
Right after the pools is the junction between the Fern Lake Trail and the Mill Creek Trail. Hikers should bear right here. The trail begins to ascend more rapidly at this point for the next 2 miles.
3.7 miles into the hike, hikers will reach the junction for Spruce Lake, which lies only a couple hundred feet from Fern Lake, a beautiful stop on the way to Odessa Lake.
4.6 miles into the hike, hikers will reach Odessa Lake, and the trail continues to more viewpoints along the lake for another .3 miles. Hikers can retrace steps back to the parking lot.
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.
There are various camping options near Odessa 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 Bear Lake Trailhead
To Fern Lake Trailhead
Current Weather Conditions
Here is a detailed weather forecast:
Grand Lake, CO
A slight chance of snow showers before 7am, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers between 7am and 11am. Mostly sunny. High near 21, with temperatures falling to around 16 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -7. West southwest wind 18 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 48 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow after 5am. Partly cloudy. Low around 15, with temperatures rising to around 17 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -7. West southwest wind 30 to 36 mph, with gusts as high as 58 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow before 2pm, then snow and areas of blowing snow. Partly sunny. High near 23, with temperatures falling to around 18 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -5. West southwest wind 22 to 31 mph, with gusts as high as 47 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of around one inch possible.
Snow and areas of blowing snow. Cloudy, with a low around 4. Wind chill values as low as -7. West southwest wind 16 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.
Snow and patchy blowing snow before 5pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 8. West wind 16 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -4. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Patchy blowing snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 18.
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