|Hike Distance||12+ miles Round Trip (from Fern Lake TH)|
|Duration||Approx 7 to 8 hr Round Trip|
|Trail Type||Out and Back|
|Elevation Gain||Approx. +2355′|
|Seasons||Spring through Fall|
|Dogs||Prohibited in RMNP|
|Hike Trail Map||Click for a Map of Bear Lake Corridor|
|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
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:
- Windy Gulch Cascades – @.4 mile from Fern Lake Trailhead
- Arch Rocks – @1.5 miles from Fern Lake Trailhead
- The Pool – @1.7 miles from Fern Lake Trailhead
- Fern Falls – @2.7 miles from Fern Lake Trailhead
- Fern Lake – @3.9 miles from Fern Lake Trailhead
- Odessa Lake – @4.9 miles from Fern Lake Trailhead
- Grace Falls Viewpoint – @ approx. 6 miles from Fern Lake Trailhead
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
Map & Driving Directions
Click for Driving Directions