Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trailhead

MODERATE 67 reviews
#41 of 177 trails in

Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trailhead is a 16.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Estes Park, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October.

16.2 miles
3868 feet
Out & Back











wild flowers




no dogs

Start at Moraine Park Visitor Center or the Park & Ride shuttle bus parking area across from the Glacier Basin Campground. Ride the shuttle to Bear Lake, hike to the shuttle station nearest Fern Lake Trailhead and take the shuttle from their back to your start point. Take advantage of the free RMNP shuttle system to hike this point-to-point trail at an overall elevation loss. Hike through boulder fields and get some of the best views in the park, including Notchtop Mountain, Odessa Lake, Fern Lake, and Fern Falls.

19 days ago

Fabulous hike yesterday (6/2/18). Started at Bear Lake and went to Fern Lake trail head. Completed Trip in 6 hours. Stopped at each lake. Snow fields were encountered all the way from 1 mile from Lake Helene to Odessa Lake and patches from Odessa lake to Fern Lake. Rented micro spikes but ended up keeping them in the bag the whole time. Didn’t need them. Just go slow. Well worth the time spent. Will do it again!!!

1 month ago

We did the first 1.5-2 miles from Bear Lake, but made it to 10k elevation before turning back. Snow was still 2-3 feet deep at points, but packed down well enough to walk on without sinking in. The only trouble is that it’s icy at points, especially late in the day, so be sure to have a good walking stick and decent trail shoes if not cleats. So beautiful and breathtaking. You won’t be sorry.

4 months ago

Simply amazing! Go see for yourself, no disappointments

8 months ago

Awesome trip. Went in early October and it got pretty icy close to Odessa lake. I would consider this a nice smooth trail with no major concerns. Takes about 3-4 hours depending on your stops. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and has several spots to camp, so take your pick. Spent 2.5 days on the trail and absolutely worth it!

9 months ago

Awesome hike! Did an overnight at Odessa Lake with my girlfriend. A bit windy at night so be sure to anchor down if staying the night.

9 months ago

Great hike in mid September. Weather was great and the scenery was simply stunning.

9 months ago

Beautiful hike! We parked at Bear Lake at around 730 am, hiked to Fern Lake and then took the shuttle back to Bear Lake. The park shuttles are so convenient for one way hikes. You pass Lake Helene, Odessa Lake and Fern Lake and Fern Falls. Wasn't that difficult either, just pretty long. Great views all the way through though.

10 months ago

From Bear the trail is rocky and inclined until about halfway to Helene then pretty much down hill and rocky from there. I hung around Helene for a while then went down and backtracked to Odessa Lake. Both so beautiful! Fern Lake too. Instead of going to the Fern Lake trailhead I went to Cub Lake then marched up the hill back to Bear. That was hard. I had never done that so I gave it a I will be sore for a week.

11 months ago

A really great hike. We parked at Fern Lake Shuttle then shuttled to Bear Lake.

The trail starts up right away and is steady for about 2 miles. You hit the first snow field that covers the trail at about 2 miles. You go straight from the trail follow the dirty snow pack and find the other side about 50yds away.

You are flat to inclined for another mile or mile and half. The top is gorgeous. The Mountains and waterfalls are stunning.

The hike down is steady with one tricky snow field. I would suggest trekking poles for some comfort but I saw a few people who did not use. It's a rocky trail down past Odessa, Fern, Fern Falls and the pool. It gets flat to rolling from the pool back to the lot. I clocked 10.4 miles to the Fern Lake shuttle parking from Bear Lake. Highly recommend.

11 months ago

This is an amazing and unique hike!

We took advantage of the park's free shuttle system by parking at Bear Lake PnR, riding up to Bear Lake trailhead in the shuttle, then taking the Fern Lake trailhead shuttle back to the PnR at the end of our hike.

The first 3 miles are a steady climb to an amazing overlook of Flattop, Notchtop, Odessa Lake, etc. Be sure to scramble up the rocks just to the right of the trail here for the best view! The remaining 6 miles or so are downhill to Odessa Lake, Fern Falls, Big Thompson River, etc. Be sure to take your time and stop off at all these sites if the weather is good. They're much less crowded than other areas of the park, and offer amazing scenery.

With our little excursions and the .8 mile walk back to the shuttle, we clocked in at 9.75 miles in 4 hours 11 minutes. There's a bit of snow obscuring the trail about 2 miles in, but follow the tracks to the left and you'll eventually end up back on trail, which follows a small stream bed. There were two snowfields on inclines that some might find dicey, but we managed fine without traction or poles.

11 months ago

Incredible! Multiple types of terrain - snow, rock. Do yourself a favor and get sidetracked around the Y to lake Helene, go right due north - find the peak that overlook's joes mt. Its breathtaking.

11 months ago

Starting at Bear Lake, this hike also includes Two Rivers, Helene, Odessa, Fern, and Spruce and you'll want to include them all. There are a number of short social trails behind Lake Helene with fabulous views of the lake, Flattop Mt, Joe Mills Mt, Notchtop Mt, and Odessa Lake below. This trail has a lot of great vistas, mountain views, and also includes Fern Falls and The Pool. The hike is point to point using the park's shuttles. Note that the hike does not end at the Fern Lake TH, but at the closest shuttle stop another .8 of a mile.

11 months ago

Way too much snow last week... would have been great otherwise.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Probably a great hike when there isn't snow. I went yesterday (6/12/17) with my sister and after the incline from bear lake the entire trail is covered with snow. To make it worse there are no trail markers and it is VERY easy to get lost. Our 3 hour hike turned into a 7 hour hike after losing the trail.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Absolutely stunning views, one of my favorite hikes to date. Was highly recommended to me by a park ranger and it definitely didn't disappoint!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Amazing scenery!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

We started at Bear Lake but somehow decided to take the hardest trail --Flattop. That was very hard, but so beautiful. We made it about 3/4 up the top of the mountain when we started to feel dizzy and the altitude really hit us. Coming from a very flat Miami, over 10,000 ft was challenging. Coming down, although much faster, was tricky since a lot of the trail was slippery from ice and snow. It was a gorgeous day, and we started with 30+ temperatures. But we began to peel off the layers of clothing as we built up a sweat from the hike.

Had we realized this was such a difficult trail, we would probably have opted for a more moderate one. But we're glad we did this one. The views are spectacular!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Unintentionally did this trail this past Sunday, and I don't think a more beautiful place exists than Odessa Lake. I was truly in awe of the cascading peaks surrounding the lake and the crystal clear, blue water. This is a hike that you will not regret and only the first 3.5 miles are up hill. Everything from the descent down to Odessa to Fern Lake is downhill. Be prepared for about a 9.5 mile hike!

Monday, September 26, 2016

We did this hike on 9/24/16. It snowed for a good portion, but it was beautiful. This was our first real Colorado hike (we moved here from Florida a little more than a month ago). The hike was tough sometimes, but for the most part, it was enjoyable. There was a lot of horse poop on the trail leading up to Fern Lake and beyond. And this hike can be pretty rocky at times, but it was worth it.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

This is a long trail with very rocky path. Sights are OK but not worth hard effort. I will never do this hike again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Amazing hike showcasing beautiful lakes and peaks

Sunday, August 07, 2016


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

This was worth every second. The views are spectacular and we even saw a moose!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fun, diverse trail with beautiful fall colors especially near the starting and end points.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Great trail. We came in mid-September and the weather was amazing. The terrain is diverse - with rock cliffs to forest and waterfalls. We had hoped to see wildlife along trail but it was an exceptionally busy year so maybe another time.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Monday, July 27, 2015

This was a hike that we are glad we accomplished. The incline to Helene lake is modest, but the decline down to Fern Lake, was the rockiest hikes Ive ever been on. Great views, and well worth the hike.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Absolutely one of my favorite trails. Completed twice this summer. Minimal traffic and spectacular views. If you have time, prior to Helene Lake, boulder thru to the left of the trail .15 mi by the Sourdough campsite to get a view of Two River Lakes and Marigold Pond.

Joe Mills Mtn cliff crossing is awesome down to the stunning Odessa Lake. Found several species of Mushrooms and Wildflowers. On down to the beautiful Fern Lake and on to Fern Falls.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My favorite hike! Spectacular views near Lake Helene, and at Odessa Lake and Fern Lake. You have to go off the main trail a bit to get to Odessa Lake, but it is very much worth it. There's often snow on this trail, even in the Summer, so check with a Ranger at Bear Lake before attempting the hike or you may have to turn back.

12 days ago

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