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

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Article Categories: Hiking

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.

Trail Map

Odessa Lake Trail Map

Odessa Lake Trail Map

Trails

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.

Camping Information

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

Memorial Day
Sunny, with a high near 56. West wind 9 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.

Tonight
Mostly clear. Low around 29, with temperatures rising to around 36 overnight. West southwest wind 5 to 8 mph.

Tuesday
A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny. High near 58, with temperatures falling to around 52 in the afternoon. South wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Tuesday Night
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms before midnight. Partly cloudy, with a low around 36. South southwest wind around 7 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday
A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 60. West wind 6 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Wednesday Night
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms before midnight. Mostly clear, with a low around 37. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday
A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 59. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

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 hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, 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. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about

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