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Lake Helene Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Lake Helene is a popular lake hike beginning at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lake Helene is situated in a bowl beneath Flattop Mountain, Ptarmigan Point, and Notchtop Mountain. The trail weaves through aspen groves and pine forests with scenic mountain views at almost every turn. Explore the full Lake Helene 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: Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lake Helene in RMNP

The trail up to Lake Helene begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). In the event the parking lot at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike: Lake Helene in RMNP

The trail to the is located along the perimeter trail of Bear Lake, and on the northeastern end of the lake. This short .4 mile trail will connect up with the Flattop Mountain trail. After hiking .5 mile on the Flattop Mountain Trail, the trail will fork. The trail to the left, leads up to Flattop Mountain. The trail to the right leads to the lake, and then on to Odessa and Fern Lake.

It's a moderate ascent as the trail climbs approximately 2 more miles up to Odessa Gorge. At this point there is an unmaintained trail off to the left that leads hikers to Lake Helene. Because this spur trail travels over quite a bit of rock and becomes difficult to discern, the route is marked by a series of cairns (stacked rocks).

After enjoying time at the lake, hikers may want to go 1.1 mile further north on the main trail to Odessa Lake.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Spruce Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Spruce Lake is an ideal destination in Rocky Mountain National Park for those who are looking to hike through terrain with some variety. After the 3.9 mile hike to Fern Lake, the .9 mile spur trail to Spruce Lake is moderate, with a few steep and rocky segments. It's a great place to find some solitude as few hikers will push on beyond Fern Lake. Views of Castle Rock and Gabletop Mountain fill the landscape, and catch and release fishing is allowed with a valid fishing license. Explore the full Spruce Lake 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: Spruce Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Spruce Lake 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: Spruce Lake in RMNP

After hiking approximately 3.8 miles up toward Fern Lake from the Fern Lake Trailhead--see the full Fern Lake Trail Profile---the trail will split, just before Fern Lake, and a sign will point the way to Spruce Lake.

The trail up to Spruce Lake is a easy to moderate climb through dense woods ending with a short descent across boulder field and down into the marshland that surrounds much of Spruce Lake.

Because Fern Lake is so close to the Spruce Lake trail junction, it's worth hiking to its shores either before or after hiking to Spruce Lake.

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

There are two campsites at Spruce Lake and these must be reserved through the Rocky Mountain National Park Backcountry Offices.

Sights Along the Fern Lake Trail:

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Spruce Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • 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.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended 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.
  • Bear Country: There is a decent population of Black Bears near Spruce, Fern, and Odessa Lakes. Be bear aware and be sure to dispose of food and waste properly.
  • Bring a snack or picnic lunch: The rocks near the Big Thompson River and the shores of Fern Lake can be a great place for picnics. Plus, you're going to need some fuel for this hike.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • 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 Spruce Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Marguerite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Marguerite Falls is a set of casacades with upper and lower leaps, just below Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. After the 3.9 mile hike up to Fern Lake, a social trail leads into the woods along Fern Creek to the falls. Explore the full Marguerite 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: Marguerite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Marguerite 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: Marguerite Falls in RMNP

After hiking the 3.9 miles up to Fern Lake from the Fern Lake Trailhead--see the full Fern Lake Trail Profile--a social trail can be found just before the bridge that crosses over where Fern Creek pours out of Fern Lake.

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The social trail down to Marguerite Falls is just to the left before crossing the footbridge.

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The social trail is steep at first, then weaves through a tangle of trees along Fern creek. Hikers should exercise caution, especially when the meltwater is high and the creek is swift. The trail may quickly become difficult to discern and hikers may need to navigate their way alongside the creek until the the cascades come into site.

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Marguerite Falls has two sets of cascades, the first, upper leaps, are located about 1/10th of a mile downstream from the lake. The second are approximately 1/10th of a mile further downstream.

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The best route back is to trace the creek back up to the mouth of Fern Lake where it meets up with the main Fern Lake Trail.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Marguerite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • TIP: Parking fills up fast. To avoid having to take the shuttle, we advise arriving at the Fern Lake Trailhead before 7:30 AM
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended 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.
  • Bring a snack or picnic lunch: The rocks near the Big Thompson River and the shores of Fern Lake can be a great place for picnics. Plus, you're going to need some fuel for this hike.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

A hike up to Fern Lake begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the Fern Lake Trail, hikers pass through Arch Rocks, over a bridge at The Pool, and by three cascade waterfalls. Near the, you'll gain spectacular views of The Gable, Knobtop Mountain, Notchtop Mountain, and Little Matterhorn from its northern shore. Explore the full Fern Lake 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: Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fern Lake 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 the road as this damages the roadside, and vehicles will be ticketed. 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: Fern Lake in RMNP

The hike up to the lake is a moderate one. The only demanding aspect is the round-trip distance of 7.8 miles. In the late-Spring and early-Summer, snow may still be on the ground, adding some difficulty to navigating the trail. However, most of the summer months, this is a pleasant hike with a significant amount of shade. The first trailside sight is a cascade tucked away in a gulch above the tail, Windy Gulch Cascades, which can be seen to the North (right) about 1/2 mile in.

The trail continues, following the Big Thompson River. At 1.5 Miles in, the trail weaves through several house-size boulders at Arch Rocks (pictured below).

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Just a bit further at 1.7 miles in, a bridge crosses the Big Thompson River near the spot of its confluence with both Spruce and Fern Creeks. This area is know as The Pool. After crossing the bridge at The Pool, there is a trail junction. The trail up to the lake splits off to the right.

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Just about 1/10th of a mile past The Pool, an unnamed set of cascades can be heard and seen to the right of the trail (pictured below).

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The next mile of trail continues up a set of switchbacks that make a steady climb through the forest to Fern Falls (pictured below).

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After Fern Falls, there is just 1.1 mile left to the Lake. This is the segment that may still be packed with snow. At the Lake, hikers will find a panorama of sights. From here, a social trail can be traced down to Marguerite Falls, a small set of hidden cascades along Fern Creek and just below the Lake.

Fern Lake can be a jumping off point for several other destinations:

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • 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.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended 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.
  • Bring Snack or Picnic Lunch: You'll need fuel for this hike. There are a lot of great spots along the shores of the Lake to sit down and enjoy a picnic lunch.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Windy Gulch Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Windy Gulch Cascades is a hidden cascade waterfall less than half a mile into Fern Lake Trail system in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though a short hike, the final 1/10th of a mile segment is off the main trail and in steep terrain. For that reason, we've noted this as a moderate difficulty hike. Explore the full Windy Gulch Cascades hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Windy Gulch Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Windy Gulch Cascades 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 roadside, and vehicles will be ticketed. 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: Windy Gulch Cascades in RMNP

Beginning at the Fern Lake Trailhead, the trail will lead approximately .4 mile to a point where the trail bears to the left, just after crossing a small footbridge. The falls can be heard from the trail. Here, on the right-hand side of the trail is a small, unmaintained, social trail that leads into the woods and up to Windy Gulch Cascades (see photo below).

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Because this trail is unmaintained, be sure to hike on durable surfaces and stay on the discernable social trail. The trail soon gives way to a boulder field that leads up into the gulch. The way up to the cascade stays to the left side (west side) of the creek.

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A small amount of scrambling is required, but no climbing. In fact, avoid any steep areas. Soon, the boulder field gives way to grass. From here, the lower cascades come into view (pictured at the top of this post). The upper cascades can be seen by looking further up into the gulch (which has essentially become a narrow canyon). At the top of the upper cascades, a 15'-20' waterfall can be seen gushing over the the canyon wall (pictured below).

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Travel beyond this point is not recommended as the terrain is steep, slick, and the rock is unstable.

After retracing the same route by descending the boulder field, then following the same social trail, hikers will arrive back at the main trail. The cascades can be enjoyed from a distance when hiking further up the Fern Lake trail. However, they are missed by most hikers because they are tucked away in the gulch. The photos and video of this hike were taken in the early summer whe the cascades are at their best.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Windy Gulch Cascades 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.
  • Bring some food: The rocks near the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Mosquitos: There were an unusually high number of mosquitos on this hike, so we would recommend wearing some mosquito repellant.
  • Recommended Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: The trail maps provided by Rocky Mountain National Park are usually sufficient. However, if you plan to hike RMNP often, we recommend purchasing a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map. This map also notes the location of the Windy Gulch Cascades and gives an accurate depiction of the terrain.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Copeland Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Copeland Falls is just one of the many waterfalls hikers will encounter in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, you can't miss Copeland Falls as it is the first waterfall along the main trail--just a short hike from the trailhead. Explore the full Copeland Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Copeland Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Another View of Copeland Falls

Parking & Trailhead Information for Copeland Falls

The southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the loveliest portions in the park known as the Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located just 15 minutes outside of Allenspark, Colorado along Highway 115. There is a ranger station at at the Wild Basin Trailhead with toilets and drinking water available.

In the winter (October-May), Hwy 115 may not be plowed to the trailhead, and hikers will need to park their vehicles at a winter parking lot for Wild Basin hikes. Be aware that hikes from the winter parking lot add on another 3 miles of hiking (one-way). There are other small parking areas, like the Finch Lake Trailhead, that may be accessible and allow hikers to park closer to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It's important to know that Hwy 115, though titled a "highway", is a maintained dirt road, which means that it can be used by 2WD vehicles. However, after heavy rains and other severe weather, its quality may degrade until it is repaired. 4WD may be needed when snow is on the ground.

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Wild Basin Trailhead

The Hike: Copeland Falls Trail in RMNP

Copeland Falls is just a short and easy hike from the Wild Basin Trailhead. There are lower and upper leaps at Copeland Falls, and they are reached by following a couple of spur trails that branch off from the main trail. Signs will indicate the location of the trail to the Lower Copeland Falls. After viewing the lower falls, another spur trail leads along St. Vrain Creek to Upper Copeland Falls. A sign will indicate where this second spur trail is located. After viewing the falls, hikers can connect back to the main Wild Basin Trail which leads on to many other beautiful destinations, including several more waterfalls.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Copeland Falls in RMNP

  • TIP: Bring lots of water and high-energy food.
  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight.
  • Get there early: Parking lot might get full even early in the morning.
  • You're in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, and dispose of your food responsibly.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • 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 Ben Graham for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Copeland Falls in RMNP. His photos can also be seen at Redbubble.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Arch Rocks Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Along the way to The Pool or Fern Falls, you'll run into this towering waypoint of nature in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Arch Rocks. These are boulders as huge as cottages where the trail passes through. The trail is quite flat and hikers get to enjoy the sound of the running waters of the Big Thompson River. Explore the full Arch Rocks 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: Arch Rocks in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Arch Rocks 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: Arch Rocks in RMNP

It's a short destination hike along the Big Thomspson river to Arch Rocks. Arch Rocks was actually my very first destination on my very first hike in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2004. I camped at the backcountry site that is just a bit further up the trail, nestled back in the aspens and boulders that are so characteristic in this valley.

At approx 1.5 mile a huge rock, the size of a house, arches over the trail. In centuries past, this rock sheered off from the towering cliffs above and tumbled down to this spot. It's difficult to get a good photo of Arch Rocks and to really capture it's size. If you can get down-trail, and a bit below it, you'll have a better chance.

If you want to make your hike a bit longer, the next destination along the Fern Lake trail is The Pool--just .2 mile further--where Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River collide.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Arch Rocks in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • 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.
  • Bring some food: The rocks near the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: Trail Map Link
  • 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 Charlie Stein for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Arch Rocks in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park

It's a 1.7 mile hike in to The Pool, a series of turbulent cascades and deep green-blue waters formed by the confluence of the Big Thompson River and Fern Creek. This is another popular and easy hike from the Fern Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park, and a great destination along the Fern Lake Trail. Explore the full hiking trail profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for The Pool 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: The Pool in RMNP

The hike to The Pool, and other destinations along this initial stretch of the Fern Creek trail--such as Arch Rocks and Windy Gulch Cascades--follows the Big Thompson River as it courses through a rocky, but verdant, valley. There are great places to stop to fish along the banks of the Big Thompson for trout.

At approx 1.5 mile, you'll encounter a huge rock, split in two segments that bridges over the trail. Arch Rock likely broke off the cliff side above and tumbled down into the valley eons ago. It's a remarkable site.

Another .7 miles further, hikers will arrive at The Pool, an unusual set of cascades formed by the confluence of Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River. Here, the waters collide and swirl, and have carved out a deep pool of chaotic--but beautiful--waters. Don't be fooled by the name, The Pool is not a place to swim. The current is powerful and dangerous; so, stay out of the water and be sure to exercise caution along the slick rock edges of the Pool.

At the Pool, there is a footbridge that crosses the river. It's a great spot to stop and take in the sights.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. Hikers may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • Bring A Picnic Lunch: The banks along the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • 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 Charlie Stein for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to the Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Solitude Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Solitude Lake is an alpine lake situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. Solitude is aptly named, as it is hidden from the main trail system, situated high above Glacier Gorge in the shadow of Thatchtop and Arrowhead Peak. Because the hike to Solitude and its twin sister, Shelf Lake, require travel on unmaintained trails, it is best suited for more experienced hikers who are familiar with Rocky Mountain National Park and who are have honed their land navigation skills. Full details can be found in the trail profile for Shelf Lake. Explore the full Solitude Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the tips and resources for this hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Solitude Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Solitude Lake is located about a quarter mile beyond Shelf Lake. Between the Shelf and Solitude are an unusual set of cascades, Shelf Lake Falls. Above the falls, you'll find a beautiful array of alpine wildflowers and breathtaking views of Longs Peak, Keyboard of the Winds, and the broad valley of Glacier Gorge. The hike up to Solitude take hikers past Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, and Shelf Creek Falls.

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A final reminder: This hike is not on maintained trails, is a long hike, and demanding. Hikers should be familiar with RMNP and developed the skills needed for backcountry travel. A more detailed trail profile for locating the trail and a brief description of its course and hazards are can be found on the Shelf Lake hike profile page. If you are looking for a demanding hike on maintained trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, we would recommend exploring trail profiles for Sky Pond and Black Lake.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Solitude Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Andrews Glacier and Tarn in Rocky Mountain National Park

Andrews Tarn and Andrews Glacier are high up in a more secluded area of Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a strenuous, almost 10 mile hike for those who are up for the challenge. Though it can be demanding, the Andrew's Creek area is one of our favorite trail sections in RMNP. Explore the full Andrew's Tarn and Andrew's Glacier 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: Andrews Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Andrew's Tarn and Glacier

The trail to the Andrews Tarn begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has a much smaller lot, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you'll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path down and over to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. In the event that parking at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

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Alberta Falls - Courtesy of Bert Cash

The Hike to Andrew's Glacier and Andrew's Tarn

Hikers will begin on the trail leading to Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale. The first destination that you'll encounter is at .8 miles, Alberta Falls (photo above). The trail then climbs toward an eventual trail junction. The way to the Loch is to follow the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail that bears right and ascends for about another .5 mile to another trail junction. At this second junction the trail to the left will take hikers to Glacier Gorge, and the trail to the right takes hikers on a jaunt to Lake Haiyaha. The middle trail leads onto the Loch Vale Trail--this is the trail that will eventually lead into the Andrew's Creek area and to Andrew's Tarn and Andrew's Glacier.

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The Loch in Loch Vale, RMNP

Having hiked about 2.7 miles, you'll arrive at the shores of The Loch, one of the most photographed lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park and a popular destination for hikers and those looking to catch some trout.

After this point, you should see fewer hikers. The trail continues along the northern (right-hand) side of the Loch for about .6 mile where there is a final trail junction. The trail to right will lead to Andrew's Glacier and Andrew's Tarn. The other option leads to Timberline Falls, Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond.

The next segment may be my favorite in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail weaves through a verdant forest following Andrew's creek. Its clear waters spill over tree roots, rock, and snow as it makes it way through this fairy tale valley. In the early summer of 2004, I camped in the valley just before a snowstorm. Everyone was leaving this part of the park, so I had it all to myself. A cow elk and its calf were my only visitors. The Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite is the only campsite in this area of the park and must be reserved through the backcountry office.

As the trail ascends it becomes more of a challenge, and hikers may need to pause to locate cairns (stacks of rocks) that indicate the location of the trail as it courses through scree and talus. Snow lingers up in this part of the park, so trekking poles and traction devices can be a great help. After hiking this 1.3 mile segment, the trail terminates at Andrew's Tarn, an emerald meltwater lake that has formed in this bowl high in the Rocky Mountains. It's about another 1/4 mile around the lake to the base of Andrew's Glacier.

While Andrew's Glacier is a used route for accessing the continental divide and peaks such as Taylor, and is used as a route of descent after summiting Flattop and Hallet Peaks, travel on the glacier is both problematic and can be very dangerous. Though it's a small glacier, in the summer, crevasses open in its surface. And sliding down, especially when it's icy, can quickly turn into an out-of-control trip down its surface. Hitting rock on the way down could even be fatal. Please talk with a ranger or call the park service before making travel on Andrew's Glacier a part of your plans.

List and Links of Destinations Along the Loch Vale Trail

1. Alberta Falls - @ .8
2. The Loch - @ 2.7 miles
3. Andrew's Glacier and Andrew's Tarn - Junction at 3.65 miles - Destination at 4.85 miles
4. Timberline Falls - @ 4 miles
5. Lake of Glass -@ 4.2 miles
6. Sky Pond - @ 4.6 miles

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Andrews Glacier in Glacier Gorge RMNP

  • TIP: If parking at the Glacier Gorge trailhead is full, park in another established parking area. A shuttle bus is also available.
  • Add Timberline Falls to Your Hike: Before or after your trip to Andrew's Tarn and Glacier, hikers can enjoy Timberline Falls--one of the best waterfalls in the park--and located approximately 1/4 mile beyond the Andrews Creek trail junction along the main Loch Vale trail.
  • Trekking Poles in Spring and Winter: Because the snow and ice can settle in until early Summer we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Start early in the morning: Do so on a day with a good weather expected. This is to secure a good parking spot and to avoid thunderstorms.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Conditions: Click for RMNP Trail Conditions
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ed Ogle for his photograph of Andrew's Tarn and Glacier .
  • After the Hike: Inkwell Brew Coffee

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Map & Driving Directions


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