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Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park bursts through a chasm in Fall River where the rock funnels its waters into a narrow gorge. It's one of the more accessible waterfalls in RMNP, located about 100 yards off of Old Fall River Road. The only drawback is that parking fills fast. However, there are several parking and hike options that we detail in this trail profile. Explore the full Chasm 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: Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Chasm Falls

Parking is tricky for Chasm Falls. Depending on where you are able to park, the hike will be a 0.1 mile, 2.8 mile, or 4.8 mile round-trip hike. It's also important to know that Old Fall River Road is closed during the winter months from Nov 30th until the end of March. However, the dirt road gets a lot of traffic and needs a lot of maintenance; so, there may be Spring and Summer closures for repairs. For example, Fall River Road will not open to vehicles in 2016 until early July. We recommend that you visit the Rocky Mountain National Park Road Status page to plan your trip to Chasm Falls and your drive up Old Fall River Road. Below, you'll find the three different parking options

Parking Options for Chasm Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

#1 - Pulloff Near Chasm Falls - 0.1 Mile Jaunt - Driving Directions
#2 - Endovalley Picnic Area Parking - 2.8 Mile Round Trip Hike - Driving Directions
#3 - West Alluvial Fan Parking Area - 4.8 Mile Round Trip Hike - Driving Directions

During the busy summer months, all of these parking areas fill fast. Dogs are typically not allowed in RMNP, but on certain days, they are allowed along Old Fall River Road as long as they are leashed. See the Old Fall River Road status page for days when dogs are allowed. The scenic drive up Old Fall River Road is half the adventure--but not for the faint of heart. It's a steep dirt road with no guardrails and lots of switchbacks. When the road is open, park visitors can drive it all the way up to the Alpine Visitor Center, and take Trail Ridge Road back down into Estes Park, or take Trail Ridge Road over to the west side of the park in Grand Lake, Colorado.

The Hike: Chasm Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike from the pulloff along Old Fall River Road is well-marked with signs. The short trail of approx. 100 yards leads down stone steps and a steep dirt trail. The bottom of the trail opens to a viewing platform. Like the parking areas, the platform can get quite crowded during the busy summer months.

If hiking up Old Fall River Road from either Endovalley or West Alluvial Fall parking areas, be sure to be aware of vehicles as they make their way up and down the road. This this can be a great winter hike or snowshoe trip during the winter. Usually this means starting from the West Alluvial Fan parking area.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Chasm Falls in RMNP

  • Prepare: Bring water and high-energy food.
  • Winter Road Closure: The road is closed to cars during winter. You may opt to plan on a longer hike during this season - starting from the West Alluvial parking area.
  • Get there early: Parking may be limited at most of the trailheads in RMNP during the summer months. Go early to get a good spot. By early, we mean before 7:30 AM.
  • Trail Map of Fall River 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 Tim Vo for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Chasm Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Pulloff Near Chasm Falls

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Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Calypso Cascades is an easy 3.6 mile hike to one of several waterfall destinations along this section of trail. This waterfall in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park is gets its name from the purple Calypso Orchids that bloom along the banks of Cony Creek. Explore the full Calypso Cascades 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: Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Calypso Cascades

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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Calypso Cascades From Below

The Hike: Calypso Cascades Trail in RMNP

The hike to Calypso Cascades begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and at just .3 mile into the trail, passes by both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls. Read our full trail profile on Copeland Falls for details on how to access both sets of cascades.

After taking in the views at Copeland Falls, the trail follows the course of North St. Vrain Creek as it flows out of the rugged high country and snowfields in this wild corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon the trail will split. The right-hand trail leads through a segment of trail with 5 different backcountry camping sites and on towards Thunder and Lion lakes. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. The left-hand trail leads south towards Calypso Cascades and Finch Lake Trail system.

Taking the Finch Lake Trail, hikers will cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Near the bridge, you'll discover an unnamed set of cascades. After crossing the bridge, the trail follows Cony Creek for about 0.4 mile to the site of Calypso Cascades. Calypso Cascades are reminiscent of Fern Falls: the waters of Cony Creek tumble over boulders and fallen trees in a moss-covered landscape. What makes Calypso Cascades unique are the Calypso Orchids (also known as Pink Lady Slippers) that bloom in the late-spring and early-summer along the creek.

Hikers can return to the trailhead to make this a 3.6 mile hike, or can continue on the Finch Lake trail for approximately 1 mile to the site of Ouzel Falls.

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Pink Fairy Slipper Flower

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Calypso Cascades in RMNP

  • TIP: The area near the bridge over North St. Vrain Creek can be a great spot for a picnic.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • 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, dispose of your food responsibly, and don't food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jeff Kramer for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Calypso Cascades in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

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 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

Cub Lake Loop Hike 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 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.

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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."

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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 the 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.

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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 the Lake come from this segment of trail. The trail then runs along the shore of the Lake before it makes a steep descent through a strange and wild area scraped by an ancient glacier and riddled with boulders.

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Cub Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Barbara Morgan

The final 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.

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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 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 in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking the Flattop Mountain Trail and reaching its summit offers 360 degrees of stunning panoramas in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead and traces its way through a varied alpine landscape. The hike to Flattop Mountain also provides access to both Hallett Peak and Otis Peak. Explore the full Flattop Mountain 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: Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Flattop Mountain in RMNP

The hike up Flattop Mountain in RMNP begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions) 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.

The Hike: Flattop Mountain in RMNP

Beginning at the Bear Lake trailhead, a paved trail will run along the eastern shore of the lake. Look for signs for the trail leading towards Flattop Mountain. This .4 mile connector trail leads through stands of quaking aspens to the first trail junction. The right-hand trail leads to the Bierstadt Moraine and Lake Bierstadt. The left-hand trail leads toward Flattop Mountain and Odessa Gorge.

After hiking .5 mile on this second trail segment, the trail will fork again. The trail to the left, leads up to Flattop Mountain and the trail to the right leads down into the Odessa Gorge area. This third and final segment is the longest, 3.2 miles. Here, the Flattop Mountain trail begins a series of switchbacks through Spruce Forest. Soon, hikers will come to the Dream Lake overlook with breathtaking views of Hallett Peak and the sheer north face of Longs Peak. Further up the trail, a second overlook reveals Emerald Lake deep in the bottom of Tyndall Gorge.

Near the Emerald Lake overlook, the trees begin to change shape, into what's called Krummholz forest. It's a German term meaning "crooked" or "twisted wood". These windswept pines look like they've been sculpted by a master bonsai artist. The trail gets a bit more steep as it climbs above treeline, running through rock and tundra, with cairns (stacked-rock markers) noting the trail where it might become difficult to discern.

At the top, it will make sense how Flattop Mountain got it's name. It's less of a peak and more of a broad field of tundra and rock. But the effort to get to the top is worth the views. Hikers can see the Mummy Range to the North as well as Lumpy Ridge. To the Southeast lay peak after jagged peak, with Longs Peak's leaden north face set against the sky.

From the top of Flattop Mountain, hikers can follow a trail through the tundra to the true peak of Hallett, which is approximately .4 mile away to the south with another approximately 400' in elevation gain. Be sure to read the tips section below for making this hike up Flattop Mountain as there are a few important aspects to this more demanding hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Flattop Mountain in RMNP

  • Start early in the morning: Afternoon thunderstorms appear suddenly during the summer hiking season. For this reason, hikers are urged to start early enough to be down off the mountain by early afternoon. Many people have ignored this and been caught in really nasty, weather up on this trail. There have been weather-related fatalities here.
  • Take it Easy: It's a demanding walk up Flattop, and should not be approached as a sprint to the summit. Be sure to pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
  • Layer: It gets colder as you hike toward the top of Flattop. Be sure to have warm clothing. Hikers are also very exposed to the sunlight and risk sunburn, so be sure to wear sunscreen.
  • Food & Water: It probably goes without saying, but be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water to fuel your body for this demanding hike.
  • 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.
  • 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 Dick Rochester for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Flattop Mountain in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Grace Falls Hike 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

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:

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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

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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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Odessa Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Odessa Lake is one destination you shouldn't miss in Rocky Mountain National Park. The alpine scenery is striking as towering mountain peaks seem to rise right out of the Lake. Odessa offers great views of Joe Mills Mountain, The Gable, and Little Matterhorn. This hike described here begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead, but a second route is possible from Bear Lake and is briefly described as well. Explore the full Odessa 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: Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Odessa 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: Odessa Lake in RMNP

Beginning at the Fern Lake Trailhead, the trail will follow the Big Thompson River past several sites (see the list and waypoints below) including three cascade waterfalls before arriving at Fern Lake at 3.9 miles. Fern Lake sits at approximately 9500' elevation. The next segment up to Odessa Lake climbs another approximate 500' in elevation over the course of one mile.

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Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

At Odessa a spur trail takes hikers along the secluded western shore of the lake, something you can't miss if you've hiked this far. The spur is marked by a trail junction sign, and leads over a footbridge to cross Fern Creek, then through a short, narrow gorge before opening out to Odessa Lake.

Return and Alternate Route Options

Hikers have a couple options for their return route. They can turn around and hike back the way they came, or they can hike the 4.1 miles to the Bear Lake Trailhead where a shuttle system can transport them 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.

This route down into Bear Lake travels past Lake Helene and Two Rivers Lake. After approximately 3 miles, the trail arrives at a trail junction where signs indicate the final .9 mile trail segment down to Bear Lake and Trailhead.

This 4.1 mile route from Odessa to Bear Lake can be traveled in reverse as an alternate and very scenic option for hiking up to Odessa Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead.

Sights & Waypoints Along the Fern Lake Trail:

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Odessa 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.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Wayne Boland for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Odessa Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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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.

marguerite-falls-rocky-mountain-national-dnd-social-trail-begin

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.

marguerite-falls-rocky-mountain-national-dnd-socialtrailatfernlake

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.

marguerite-falls-rocky-mountain-national-dnd-leaps

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).

arch-rock-rocky-mountain-national-park-dayhikes-near-denver

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).

fern-falls-on-the-way-to-fern-lake-rmnp

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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elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park