Backpack to Odessa Lake via Fern Lake Trailhead

Rate this Adventure Colorado Fern Lake Trailhead

Added by Andrew Slaton

Be prepared for amazing wildlife, phenomenal scenery and photo opportunities that are endless. It's also great for night landscape photography with relative solitude (for RMNP) even for a short hike and an easy overnighter.

Odessa Lake seems to be one of the true hidden gems of Rocky Mountain National Park. Don't get me wrong, you will likely see some folks there, but it is a far cry from the other crowded Bear Lake trailhead lakes.

There are two ways to reach Odessa; one, from the Bear Lake Trailhead, and the other from the Fern Lake Trailhead, which can be accessed via Moraine Park. I have only gone the latter, so I'll focus on that route. It is a little longer (~5 miles) and a bit more elevation gain (approx. 2000ft), but much quieter and less crowded. It is a fairly strenuous hike.

To reach the trailhead, follow Moraine Park Road for a half-mile to an unmarked junction - just before reaching the Moraine Park Campground. Turn left at the junction and drive roughly 1.9 miles to the Fern Lake Trailhead. There are shuttle stops along the way. You'll have the option of taking the free park shuttle from the Moraine Park Visitor Center, but you'll have to walk an additional eight-tenths of mile along the dirt road to reach the trailhead.

Take the Fern Lake trailhead through desert and sandstone landscape, eventually reaching Arch Rocks about a mile in. They are the size of houses and quite impressive.

At almost 2 miles in you'll reach the Cub Lake Trail junction. This also marks the spot where Fern Creek meets the Big Thompson River, and this forms the turbulent waters called, The Pool. It is a popular area for picnics and fishing.

The next section is a decent climb until you reach Fern Lake, about 4 miles in. Continue climbing after Fern for less than a mile and you reach the north shore of Odessa Lake and the backcountry campsites. The campsites sit just inside the trees only a stones throw away from the gorgeous north shore of the lake, where both sunsets and sunrises are incredible!!

Be sure to obtain a backcountry camping permit from the Backcountry Office, which is adjacent to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the east side of the park. There is a $26 Wilderness Administrative Fee for each trip reservation (not for each night/not for each person) fromMay 1 through Oct. 31(non-refundable and non-exchangeable). This fee does not include the Park entrance fee.

Pack List

  • Backcountry Permit
  • Backpack
  • Water/ Filter/ Iodine Tablets
  • Tent (if you want to make it an overnighter)
  • Hiking boots/shoes
  • Camera
  • Tripod!
  • Polarizing filter (to get a great reflection from the pond)
  • Neutral Densities
  • Hammock!
  • Bear canister for your food (required in RMNP)
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Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Fitness, Hiking, Photography, Swimming, Yoga

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



9.85 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1890 Feet


Easy Parking
Swimming Hole

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Added by Andrew Slaton

Andrew is a commercial landscape and active lifestyle photographer living on the road full-time with his yogi wife, Ellen, dog, Islay Blue, and stud cat, Colonel Bubba. Based wherever the wind takes them, and teaching workshops along the way.

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