Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park - Day Hikes Near Denver

June 3, 2016 Comments (0) 4-6 miles, Colorado Loop Hikes, Creek or Brooks, hikes near estes park, Lake Hikes, Lakes, Medium, More than 90 Min, Rocky Mountain National Park, Wildflowers

Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

cub lake loop rocky mountain national park header

The Cub Lake Loop Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is a great alternative to the an out-and-back hike up to Cub Lake. Along the way, hikers will pass by Windy Gulch Cascades, travel alongside the Big Thompson River, cross over an area called The Pool, journey through wetlands, and will be surrounded by sights of a glacial-shaped landscape. Explore the full Cub Lake Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Trail Snapshot: Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Hike Distance: 6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: Approx 2-4 hrs
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Starting Elevation: 8080′
  • Elevation Gain: +540′
  • Seasons: Spring through Fall, Winter Snowshoeing
  • Dogs: Dogs Prohibited in RMNP
  • Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Cub Lake Loop RMNP
  • Denver Drive Time: 1 hr 40 min
  • Driving Directions to Cub Lake Trailhead: Click for Google Map
  • Driving Directions to Fern Lake Trailhead: Click for Google Map
  • Driving Directions to Park & Ride Trailhead: Click for Google Map
  • Town Nearest Hike: Estes Park, Colorado
  • Beauty: Sub-alpine lakes, mountain views, meadows, river, wildlife: Abert’s squirrel, elk, deer, moose, duck, bear; yellow pond lilies and wildflowers.
  • Activities: Picnicking, hiking trails, snowshoeing, horseback riding, backcountry camping (with a permit)
  • Fee: Park Pass Required


Cub Lake Loop Waypoints

A: 0.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead
B: 0.2 miles : Parking Lot
C: 0.8 miles : Fern Lake Trailhead
D: 2.5 miles : The Pool
E: 3.5 miles : Cub Lake Trail – Hollowell Park Trail Intersection
F: 3.7 miles : Cub Lake
G: 5.7 miles : Cub Lake Trail – South Lateral Moraine Trail Intersection
H: 6.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead

Parking & Trailhead Information for Cub Lake Loop

The Cub Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park has a very small parking area where only 7 to 8 vehicles can park. Chances are, if you don’t arrive early in the morning, you’ll need to park just .3 mile further down the road at the Fern Lake Bus Stop parking area. If both lots are full, then your best bet is to park in the RMNP Park & Ride lot and use the shuttle service to get to the Cub Lake Trailhead. Please do not park alongside the road. This causes significant erosion and damage to roadside–and you might get a ticket.

The Hike to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

This hike profile for the Cub Lake Loop in RMNP is hiked counter-clockwise from the Cub Lake parking area. However, it can be hiked the other direction–it’s all a matter of preference. The hike can also be started at the Fern Lake Trailhead.

Beginning at the Cub Lake Trailhead, the first mile follows the dirt road past the Fern Lake bus stop, then through a grove of aspens to the Fern Lake trailhead. The first sight along the trail worth stopping to see are the Windy Gulch Cascades. They are about .4 mile into the Fern Lake Trail, tucked away in a gulch high above the valley. You’ll hear them first, but a footbridge and water across the trail will key hikers into the location of the cascades. We’ve created a full hike profile on Windy Gulch Cascades, if you would like more detailed information on this hidden waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park.

windy-gulch-cascades-rmnp-lower-cascades

The next sight along the trail is Arch Rocks, where the trail winds through a series of boulders, including two massive rocks that fell from the cliffs above into the valley many eons ago. Shortly after Arch Rocks, the sounds of the Big Thompson River, Spruce Creek, and Fern Creek will fill the air. At the confluence of these streams, a bridge crosses the area named “The Pool.”



cub lake loop rocky mountain national park the pool

The Pool – Courtesy of Steve Wallace

After crossing the bridge at The Pool, the trail splits. The right-hand trail makes its way up to Fern Falls and Fern Lake. The left-hand trail leads to Cub Lake–this left-hand trail is the correct trail for completing the loop. The trail then bends south, then turns east and climbs up the South Lateral Moraine. This 1.2 mile segment from the Pool to Cub Lake is the most demanding part of the hike. The trail encounters a second trail junction with the Hollowell Park Trail which bears to the right. The trail to Hollowell Park is a beautiful detour, but leads away from Cub Lake. To stay on the Cub Lake loop, hikers will continue east on the Cub Lake Trail.

cub lake loop rocky mountain national park lily pads

A Sea of Lily Pads on Cub Lake – Courtesy of Steve Harbula

Soon after the junction, the trail descends to Cub Lake. Some of the best views of Cub Lake come from this segment of trail. The trail then runs along the shore of Cub Lake before it makes a steep descent through a strange and wild area scraped by an ancient glacier and riddled with boulders.

cub lake loop rocky mountain national park

Cub Lake in RMNP – Courtesy of Barbara Morgan

The final Cub Lake Trail segment leads through forest and marshland, across bridges, and down into the western edges of Moraine Park. Here, hikers will likely see elk grazing, and hear and see an extensive variety of birds among the shrubs and aspens. Before crossing into Moraine Park, the trail will split again. The right-hand trail leading along the South Lateral Moraine. The trail back to the Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads, continues North/Left for about 1/3 of a mile back to the Cub Lake Trailhead.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • TIP: Take advantage of the free park shuttle to get to the trailhead during peak seasons.
  • Bring A Picnic Lunch: The banks along the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Bug Spray: Because of the amount of water along this hike, hikers will likely encounter a fair share of mosquitos; so, bring some bug spray.
  • Trail Map: Trail Map for Cub Lake Loop in RMNP
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Andrew Mace for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café


Weather

Estes Park, CO
62°
partly cloudy
61% humidity
wind: 7mph SE
H 65 • L 45
67°
Wed
63°
Thu
69°
Fri

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *