Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Fern Lake (Winter)
Winter trail to the Pool, Fern Falls, and Fern Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Hiked: Nov. 26, 2013
Distance: 8.5 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 2,000ft
National Park Service Website
Fern Lake Trail Map (Google Maps)
Directions: From Estes Park, enter Rocky Mountain National Park via the Beaver Meadows entrance. Make a left on Bear Lake Road and a right towards Moraine Park. During the winter the road is closed before the Fern Lake Trailhead adding about 1 mile roundtrip to the hike. There is a $20 fee to enter the park, but if you live in Colorado just spring for the annual pass. If you don't come here multiple times a year, then...well...you know...
The first part of this hike is a mostly level, pleasant walk through the forest along the creek feeding into Cub Lake. Once you reach the Pool (a nice destination for the kiddos) the trail starts to climb and gains most of hike's total elevation within about 1.5 miles. In the winter there is a good chance that the trail will be snow packed, I wound up carrying my snowshoes on my pack and just wearing good boots and using trekking poles for traction.
The trail is amazing. In the early winter there is barely a soul in the park, but beware if you go during the summer, the crowds can be overwhelming. As you approach Fern lake, there are mountain views in every direction and Fern Falls is spectacular. When you reach Fern Lake head left to the eastern part of the lake and a small bridge. The view from just past the bridge reminds you why this is a National Park. The Gable, Little Matterhorn, and Notch Mountain tower over the lake and beckon you to travel onward. If you do have the time and energy keep heading up the trail to Odessa Lake, the mountain's majesty keeps getting better. Stay here as long as you can and explore the shoreline. In winter the trail from here to Odessa Lake gets immediately less traveled, if you didn't need snowshoes up till now, you will once you get to the western shore of Fern Lake. In winter, given the added mileage at the beginning, Fern Lake is a substantial hike and worth every snow trodden mile.