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945 Fern Lake Trail
Rocky Mountain
National Park

Looking down from the Continental Divide at the gorge

View of Odessa Gorge and the Fern Lake Trail from the Continental Divide

One of the trails we wanted to hike this summer was the Fern Lake Trail. The trail connects Flattop Mountain Trail, near Bear Lake, with the Fern Lake Trailhead along the Big Thompson River (near Moraine Park).

We drove to Bear Lake Trailhead and then asked how to catch the Free Hiker Shuttle to Fern Lake Trailhead. The National Park Service employee looked at us and said, 'I don't think that is what you really want to do. Most folks start at Bear Lake and go mostly downhill to Fern Lake Trailhead.'

'Nope, that is not what we want to do, we want to hike up to Bear Lake.'

Reluctantly, she told us which buses to take.

The bus rides were fun. It was morning and the buses were not crowded. The drivers spent time telling us about the Park, the Flood of '13, and any other bits of info.

We were dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Stop, not the trailhead. After a few adjustments to our gear, we were walking down the dirt road to the Fern Lake Trailhead. It was not a bad hike along the road, but it was not our favorite section of the route.

Once on the actual trail we were walking through the Fern Lake Burn area and evidence of the Flood of '13. The power of both catastrophes were amazing.

At the Pool (a popular spot along the river) we began the climb. We met a few backpackers - each with a tale, a girl runner - prancing up the trail, and day hikers who started at Bear Lake. It was interesting talking to each group.

rain at Fern Lake

We arrived at Fern Lake, just in time for a rain storm. Hustling the last short section of trail to the lake, we took shelter under the eave of the Ranger Patrol Cabin. It was still morning and we really did not expect the rain. After a short discussion, we thought we were in for a day of non-stop rain. Fern Lake was just about at the halfway mark. We would rather walk uphill in the rain, than downhill. Our pace while walking uphill, would help keep us warm. We donned our rain gear and continued up the trail in the rain.

View of Notchtop Mountain from the Fern Lake Trail

The rain didn't last long. We took off the rain gear and continued our hike. We passed Odessa Lake and continued climbing. The views were outstanding. There was a large talus field to cross and a couple of small snowfields.

Soon we were at Lake Helene (near the high point of the trail) and it was mostly downhill to Bear Lake.

It was a good hike. We enjoyed hiking up the trail to Bear Lake instead of down it. Since we were going against the flow, we met more of the hikers. There were some good stories from the hike that we hope to share soon.

Happy Fern Lake trails


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