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.

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


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

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