Fern Lake Trail is a 7.1 mile moderately 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 May until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
7.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,453 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

no dogs

Fern Lake Trail is a relatively uncrowded hike to a scenic mountain lake accessed from the Moraine Park area on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail follows the Big Thompson River offering great views of Fern Falls, Notchtop Mountain and the Little Matterhorn from Fern Lake's north side.

hiking
7 days ago

I went sunday, 11/11/18. The final 0.6 miles of road was closed so the whole hike is about 9 miles round trip. It was absolutely gorgeous, it was snowing when I went, wasn't too bad till you get past Fern Falls, then it was about a foot of unpacked snow. If it's fresh snow, I'd recommend taking snowshoes, tho not completely necessary, I went in trailrunners and the whole thing was about 3 1/2 hours round trip, tho I may hike faster than average, I'd plan for probably 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Highly recommend it, especially in the snow, if possible, get the lodge at Fern Lake, that would be absolutely amazing to wake up to that!

hiking
22 days ago

Beautiful hike. Went up to Fern Lake and Spruce Lake today (10/28/18) total time about 5 hours. There was still parking at the trailhead at 10:45am. Trail conditions were good. No ice or snow on the trail up to fern lake. The trail from fern to spruce can be tough to follow at a few points so pay attention. There was a little snow on this portion but I never had to use spikes. Neither trail nor lake was crowded at all—perfect peaceful solitude for a final summer hike.

hiking
28 days ago

Very nice forested area following the Big Thompson River or Fern Creek the majority of the way to the lake. It's very easy and flat up until The Pool, at which point it begins getting steep. About halfway to Fern Falls, ice becomes more and more prominent on the trail. Microspikes are recommended to get to the Falls and beyond. From the falls to Fern Lake is primarily iced over on the trail. Gorgeous views once you reach the lake, which isn't iced over yet.

I made it there right around sunset, considering going to Odessa, but some hikers said it was completely frozen over and steep to get there, so I ended my hike at Fern Lake for this trip.

30 days ago

We turned around before we made it to the falls, so I’m taking it in faith it would have been worth it. We were about 3 miles in, about a mile past the Pool, when the trail turned to ice. Without traction or poles it wasn’t worth it. I’d call it fairly easy to the Pool but definitely moderate once you get past there.

hiking
1 month ago

Striking views of shear rock faces, a true mountain lake

hiking
1 month ago

It's a pretty trail that I'm sure is nicer during the summer months. More than half the trail is now iced over towards the higher elevation. Made for an interesting trip up and down. Once you arrive, its very nice view but I'm partial to others in RMNP like Sky Pond, Emerald, etc. PS: The actual hike is more like 4 miles each way if my Suunto is correct.

fishing
1 month ago

Great time hiking, camping, and fishing. Can get crowded during the summer but the father out you get, the less people you run in to.

1 month ago

Great trail, plenty of wildlife and awesome views!!

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike! We got to the trailhead at 8 a.m. and we were the 4th car in the lot and pretty much had the trail to ourselves. The first two miles are very easy with minimal elevation gain and smoother trails. Miles 3 & 4 were a constant climb at a moderate rate. The trail got rockier so I’d recommend good shoes, they were very slick when wet. The fall colors were still very vivid today. After 11a, the trail got significantly more crowded and all of the lots were full, so be sure to get there early if you don’t want to add additional miles to your hike. The waterfall is one of the best I’ve seen so far, and the lake was barely visible through the fog but still worth the climb!

hiking
1 month ago

It’s a great hike with a nice goal and view - really moderate and nice to do if you arrive late to the park one day.

1 month ago

Beautiful hike! Enjoyed the amazing falls, peaceful lake and wildlife!

1 month ago

Great hike but take it to Odessa lake and finish the loop to Bear Lake

1 month ago

The is our favorite hike! It’s challenging, beautiful and chalked full of wildlife. We saw about 20 Elk, 6 deer and our bonus for getting to fern lake was 2 moose right at the mouth of the lake. Parking was limited so we added about 2 miles to our trek. All said and done we hiked 10 miles and enjoyed every minute!

2 months ago

Lovely and manageable hike.

hiking
2 months ago

A bit crowded on a September weekend, but most trails in the park are at this time. We had to do about .8 miles of road-walking from the shuttle stop, where we were lucky to get a parking space (there were tons of people circling the lots and walking the road). Much of the trail goes through the burn area, which detracts from the scenery, and it's also the most horse-poop-covered trail I've seen in the park. Gross. The lake is lovely and we saw a couple of moose (and the crowds thin after each viewpoint - the pond and the falls - so there weren't tons of people who made it all the way to the lake. We didn't have time to do Odessa, which is reportedly great, but just Fern Lake as a destination was only so-so compared to other hikes in RMNP.

hiking
2 months ago

Just a fabulous hike. A steady climb to the lake, but you pass a number of great waterfalls and open meadows on the way up. I saw 3 moose (bull and cow with older calf), deer, a family of friendly grouse, turkey, and lots of pickpocketing squirrels and chipmunks. The lake was not crowded and the trail was really not busy at all for the park. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a sub alpine lake without a crowd. Just bring lots of snacks and water and please don't feed the wildlife!

hiking
2 months ago

Excellent!

2 months ago

Beautiful, moderately steep assent to a most wonderful Alpine lake. Definitely worth the hike for a 55 yo in decent shape

hiking
2 months ago

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! Thanks to Heather's review (two down, past the salty dog guy's unfair rating), I decided to round-trip to Bear Lake, making my personal journey 16+ miles. However, as Heather mentioned, there is a shuttle at Bear Lake if you want to ride back :)

The trip to Fern Lake was isolated and wonderful. I was averaging seeing 2 people per mile until the lake. I would recommend going a little further to Odessa if you can, the chasm is so gorgeous and unexpected when you come to it that it took my breath away!

I saw 50+ elk as well as deer, ducks, squirrels, chipmunks, pikas, AND the "resident" bear! He crossed right over the trail about half a mile from the Fern Lake TH, at 7 pm. Not overly afraid of humans but also not eager to make acquaintance! It was breathtaking to see such a beautiful creature in his natural habitat. Stay safe and smart out there hikers!

2 months ago

No dogs!. :(

hiking
2 months ago

*Disclaimer - I hiked this trail through to Bear Lake (which I would HIGHLY recommend), if I would have done the out and back I’d probably give this trail 4 stars. (You can easily take the shuttle system back (close) to the Fern Lake TH if you decide to walk through :) )

Arrived at 6:40am and was able to park right at the TH. The trail is woodsy and you parallel Big Thompson river for a little while before you start heading up which is pleasant. Fern Falls is a nice bonus on the way to the lake (it took me 1.5 hours to get to the lake).

Once arriving, I decided to push on to Bear Lake and I am SO glad I did! Fern Lake trail as a whole is gorgeous with multiple changing landscapes and beautiful views. I am by no means saying the out and back isn’t lovely BUT if you have an extra 1200 feet of elevation gain still in you once you get to the lake, keep going! (Even if you don’t go all the way to Bear Lake it is so worth it to also tack on Odessa Lake then head back.)

Besides the beauty, this trail is not nearly as highly populated as other trails in this area of the park. I saw less than 10 people for the first 6 miles and even still had good stretches of solitude once getting closer to Bear Lake.

As I mentioned above Odessa Lake is a must! Then the gorge is super unexpected and amazing! I also added Lake Helene which is a cute snack stop and again very unpopulated (the turnoff is hard to spot though, I walked right by it).

The whole trail took me 4 hours. I was SO pleasantly surprised by this one!

(*Oh! I (thankfully) did NOT see the resident black bear(s)).

fishing
2 months ago

Bears!
This was primarily a fishing trip. But my girlfriend and I arrived at the Fern Lake trailhead at about 6am. She walks really fast so we made it up to the lake by about 7:30-7:45. Fishing was great up at the lake. The views are as spectacular as some of the other lakes, but the fishing makes it worth it. After the pool, the amount of people on the trail decreases, but it is a constant grade after the pool to the lake. But yes bears on the trail on the way back down. We were told there was two but only saw one, very large black bear. Biggest I have seen in Colorado and not overtly afraid of humans! Be safe!

hiking
2 months ago

Another great RMNP hike with plenty of views. I started by doing the Cub lake trail then to Fern lake and back out to the parking area between Fern lake TH and Cub lake TH. Overall mileage was 11.34mi and that included wandering around to fly fish @ Fern Lake. Overall a pretty easy hike however the ascent to Fern Lake is constant. Fern Falls is a gorgeous pit stop and even though its a heavily trafficked trail you feel secluded once youre at Fern lake. Lots of water the entire trek which helps break it up. I finished the entire loop in 7:30, which like I said included fly fishing and time at the lake.

hiking
3 months ago

Good spot for fishing

hiking
3 months ago

This was my first hike at RMNP, and it didn’t disappoint! My husband and I started at the bear lake trailhead, took a portion of the flattop mtn trail then when flattop mtn trail branched off to the left, we continued straight on the fern lake trail. We took the trail for a few miles and turned around right before two rivers lake. The incline was a good, challenging pace, not scrambling but not flat. We are beginner to intermediate hikers so this was perfect for us. The higher you get the rockier it gets on the trail. Some nice streams along the way and while it started off sunny and warm, it cooled at bit on the way up while in the pine forest. There was a portion of the trail that is next to a mountain that is nothing but rocks, so we slowed down a bit on this. This portion was also very sunny, but did not last long. Did not see any wildlife. I would do this again and next time probably go farther! Beautiful views along the way and not too crowded. I noticed the farther we went on the trail, the less foot traffic we came across. We arrived at the trailhead around 8:20am and it was full. Was able to snag a spot though. Might consider arriving a little earlier next time. First time at RMNP and I’m hooked. I never want to leave!

3 months ago

Pretty darn good hike. We parked at fern lake trailhead and hiked to the bear lake trailhead and took the shuttle back. Note that the shuttle does not go all the way back to the fern lake trailhead. You will still have 0.7 miles to get to the actual trailhead. Overall it’s almost 10 miles and about 2700 ft gain in elevation. It would be a lot easier to go bear lake to fern lake. Bear lake is higher so the climb is much less daunting. Parking is more difficult at bear lake. Either way the scenery is gorgeous and the streams and lakes are beautiful as is fern falls.

3 months ago

Great trail, with diverse landscapes and reasonable uphills. However I recommend to do an extra effort and continue to Bear Lake instead of coming back. This would imply a “hard” hike, taking into account the uphill between Fern Lake and Lake Helene. But it pays off!: You don’t repeat landscapes and you will experience the rocky world of the RMNP, with vistas of some glaciers. And you arrive to the crowded Bear Lake, where the bus is waiting for you to bring you back to Lake Fern trailhead. Give it a try!

3 months ago

Beautiful hike!

backpacking
3 months ago

Hiked and did some backcountry camping on this trail over the weekend. It really lives up to the dozens of reviews for being a really beautiful hike. Taking this route from the entry point at the Fern Lake trailhead will challenge you- especially if you’re carrying about 25-30 lbs. on your back. This is a beautiful high mountain lake with some overflow ponds and a creek with waterfall. All of this water is great for filtering and drinking and cooking. There was a duck family there with ducklings. Also there were quite a few cut throat trout in the lake too. We camped at the group camping spot which is a nice area not too far from the lake. We checked out the individual campsites, and they were quite a walk back up from the lake. I didn’t care for them too much. We hiked to Spruce lake in the evening and the trail is rougher but manageable. There is nothing spectacular about this lake. The campsite was quiet and the privy was not far off from the group camping area. The next day we headed back to the Fern Lake trailhead. It’s basically a downhill journey all the way but passes through several waterfalls and rushing streams. There are a lot of wildflowers and you will want to visit the Arches Rocks formations. The views on this side aren’t as spectacular as if you were to hike up from the Bear Lake trailhead, but still nice. I am not happy about all the piles of horse poop on this side of the trail. I know they say it degrades, but it’s just a mess trying to dodge the nasty stuff IMO. We had someone pick us up at the Fern Lake trailhead because there’s not much parking. All in all, a beautiful hike.

backpacking
3 months ago

Beautiful weather this weekend! Crowded trails and lots of mosquitoes, though! Bring bug spray for sure.

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