Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park Hiked 12/6/14


Starting Elevation: 8155 Ft

Highest Elevation: 9503 Ft

Trail Length: Officially 7.6 miles round trip but we had to park the car at the parking lot a little more then a mile away because the rest of the road to the trail head was closed for the winter. In the end we got a total of almost 10 miles.

Trail Uses:  Hiker/Snowshoe

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate

Bathroom:  Yes- when you park at the lot a little over a mile away.

Pets:  There are no pets allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fees:  It is a $20 a day fee to enter the park OR $0 for a year long pass.  We always just buy the pass.

Back to where we parked
Back to where we parked

We went to Estes park the night before to be able to be at the trailhead earlish without having to get up 3-4 hours earlier than we did. This was one we did in early December, after there was enough snow to close the dirt road to the actual trail head but not enough snow to snowshoe on.  Well at least through most of the trail anyway.

After walking almost a mile to the trailhead, we got to the official signs and the parking lot but I have to say that where we parked probably is better because the official parking lot it super tiny like 3 cars tiny.

trail sign map

I had not planned on the extra 1.5 miles that we would have to walk to and from the car so initially I changed our endeavor so we only planned to go as far as the pool.  I had been working like a crazy person and my workouts had been limited so it seemed to me that 9+ miles round trip was not likely.


trail going to the pool
trail going to the pool

We gladly made our way to the pool thinking that would be our turnaround point but the trail turned out to be pretty easy so while we spent a lot of time enjoying the Pool we decided to go on… just as far as we felt comfortable going.

The bridge
The bridge
The aforementioned Pool
The aforementioned Pool

Just over the bridge was where we either went to Fern Lake or other options, one of those being to Cub lake.  I know I want to go back and try that extension for sure!

to fern lake

This is where the real climbing started for the hike and it had a lot more snow then the first part of the hike.  It was scenically beautiful and had some great things to see like the falls.

an interesting stream crossing
an interesting stream crossing

the falls

Which is decidedly not exciting in the winter but what a picture can’t tell is the sound…. the falls were still running strong and it looked like the ice was breathing which was really cool.  I had secretly thought this is as far as I can go but I was itching for a view and we kept seeing hints of it through the trees so I said lets just go to the end of this switch back, get our view and head back….

just a little further

But there was no view… and the snow was decidedly much deeper. But I NEEDED a view. I convinced Aaron to go just a little further… then a little more…. like 50 yards more here a curve there. Needless to say an hour late i was ready to turn around and it was Aaron who convinced me we had to be close to the actual lake and how stupid would we feel if turned around a sneeze away from the lake.  About 20 minutes after that we reached the lake.

the lake 2

I have read that there is another lake not too far from this one but I was beat and we still had to get back to our car.  And frankly the blue bird skies I really waned kept alluding us.  I bet this hike is amazing on a lovely summer day and a really challenging snowshoe on a beautiful winter day.  We were there at meh time and sadly when we got back down to the beginning of the trial the sky bloomed in the most amazing blues. Regardless, I loved this hike and I think about revisiting it often but I want to be there in the summer then make my way up to the next lake or go straight to Cub lake.  I see lots of options here.

Another thing that happened on this trail was that I had decided to stop blogging… weird right? When I was in Germany the summer before my niece Anne had said something that had hit me more then I realized. She said you know banning the taking of pictures really makes you be in the moment and soak in the beauty so you remember it. With work and life getting in the way I have forgotten to be in the moment and soak in the memory of that beauty.  On this hike I took less photos then I ever had before and I am ok with it. I know it has more and different things to offer so I will be there again and again plus I have spent time there and have my memories….

I did get a few gems before I put my camera away and as usual they will follow the directions.  Since this hike, I have clearly changed my mind and want to keep chronically all the amazing hikes in Colorado but I may do it less frequently then I have before.

I hope you check this one out, I know it is worth it even if the perfect view isn’t around the next corner.

Driving Directions:

  • Enter into Rocky Mountain National Park via the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station.
  • From the entrance station, make a left onto Bear Lake Road.
  • Continue on Bear Lake Road for 2 miles, and hand a right onto Moraine Park Road.
  • Moraine Park Road will eventually dead-end at the Fern Lake Trailhead.
  • In sum, you will travel 4.1 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station.

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Published by hikingtohealthy

an enthusiastic hiker living in Colorado.

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