Grace Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park - Day Hikes Near Denver

May 31, 2016 Comments (0) 7-9 miles, Cliffs, Difficult, hikes near estes park, More than 90 Min, Rock Formations, Rocky Mountain National Park, Waterfall Hikes, Waterfalls, Wildflowers

Grace Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to view Grace Falls, high in the rock cliffs and ledges of Odessa Gorge, is one of several waterfalls and scenic waypoints along the Fern Lake Trail. Grace Falls drops nearly a hundred feet from Notchtop Mountain, tumbling over a series of ledges, eventually making its way into Fern Creek. Explore the full Grace Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Trail Snapshot: Grace Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Hike Distance: 12+ miles Round Trip (from Fern Lake TH)
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Duration: Approx 7 to 8 hr Round Trip
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Starting Elevation: 8155′
  • Elevation Gain: +2355′
  • Seasons: Spring through Fall
  • Dogs: Dogs Prohibited in RMNP
  • Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Recommended Trail Map with Location of Grace Falls: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
  • Denver Drive Time: 1 hr 40 min
  • Driving Directions to Fern Lake Trailhead: Click for Google Map
  • Driving Directions to Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking: 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, river, wildflowers, aspen trees, ponderosa pine, waterfalls, wildlife: Abert’s squirrel, elk, deer, moose, duck, bear
  • Activities: Picnicking, hiking trails, snowshoeing
  • Fee: Park Pass Required


Parking & Trailhead Information for Grace Falls in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you’ll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You’ll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the road side. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.



The Hike: Grace Falls in RMNP

The journey up to view Grace in Falls Rocky Mountain National Park takes hikers past or near 5 different waterfalls and several other scenic sites. Refer to the sites and waypoints list below for the full set. Because the last stretch of trail from the western shore of Odessa lake to Grace Falls is unmaintained and difficult to discern, the falls are best viewed from the stretch of trail between Odessa and Lake Helene (more detailed directions are below).

Grace falls freezes over in the winter, attracting ice climbers to the area. The size of the falls and volume depends very much on the melting snowpack from Ptarmigan Glacier. The best time of year to view the falls is in the Spring-Early Summer. The area near the base of Grace Falls is prone to avalanches–especially during this time of year–which is another good reason to elect to view Grace Falls from the Fern Lake trail, rather than attempting the difficult hike and scramble to its base.

The best place to view Grace Falls is about .8 mile beyond the Odessa Lake junction where the trail begins to climb toward the top of Odessa Gorge making its way toward Lake Helene. This brings the journey to approximately the 6 mile point, or 12 miles round trip. An alternative and very scenic return route is to continue on the trail until it joins up with the Flattop Trail connector which leads east and down into the Bear Lake Trailhead. This makes for a 9.6 mile total hike. At the Bear Lake Trailhead, a shuttle system can transport hikers back to the Fern Lake bus stop. If you are considering this option, be sure to check the shuttle times and details. At the time of this writing, a shuttle transfer at the park-n-ride will be necessary to get back to the Fern Lake bus stop.

Sights & Waypoints Along the Fern Lake Trail:

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Grace Falls Viewpoint in RMNP

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early at the Fern Lake Trailhead as parking is limited. If the lot is full, the best option is to use the park-n-ride shuttle that drops you off at the bus stop near the Fern Lake trailhead.
  • Begin Early: As with all longer hikes in the Colorado Mountains, it’s important to start very early in the morning to avoid the thunderstorms that form in the early afternoon.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices or Snowshoes are Necessary in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail. Snow it thick above Fern Lake until Mid-Summer, because of this snowshoes are also recommended.
  • Recommended Trail Map with Location of Grace Falls: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
  • 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 Stacey Bender for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Grace Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba’s Burgers & Gyros


Weather

Estes Park, CO
24°
light snow showers
72% humidity
wind: 4mph ENE
H 29 • L 9
13°
Fri
22°
Sat
23°
Sun

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions



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