Hike from Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trailhead

Bear Lake Trailhead

Distance: 10 miles one way (point-to-point). Elevation gain: 1200 ft. Duration: 6-7 hrs. 4 mountain lakes. 60 foot waterfall. Scenic landscapes. One-way moderate day hike.

On this Rocky Mountain hike you’ll explore 4 picturesque mountain lakes and a 60 foot waterfall.

Completing this hike requires familiarizing yourself with Rocky Mountain National Park’s free shuttle system. Hikes along Bear Lake Road are some of the busiest in the park. Trailhead parking lots fill up early in the morning, so avoid the trouble and use the shuttles. To access Bear Lake trailhead, simply park at the Park and Ride and hop on a shuttle. Shuttles arrive every 10-15 minutes and will take you directly to the trailhead. At the end of your hike wait at the Fern Lake shuttle stop. Shuttles arrive about every 30 minutes at Fern Lake. The shuttle will take you back to the Park and Ride.

The hike begins at the scenic Bear Lake. At the trailhead, take the first right along the eastern shore of Bear Lake. You will take the next right towards Odessa Lake and Flattop Mountain. After about ½ mile you will come across the junction for Bierdstadt Lake. Stay left and keep heading to Odessa Lake. You’ll climb steadily for another 1/2 mile until you’ll reach the junction for Flattop Mountain. Proceed straight on the main trail.

At approximately 3 miles, you’ll notice a small trail leading down to Lake Helene. Take this trail! Lake Helene offers a perfect spot to take a break, eat a snack and take in the scenery. Lake Helene is the smallest lake on this hike, but is arguably the most scenic with a looming Rocky Mountain backdrop.

After Lake Helene, the trail turns sharply to the north and descends towards Odessa Lake. Looking down you can actually see Odessa from this point. You’ll hike down along rocky terrain with stunning scenery for about 1 mile until you reach the junction for Odessa Lake. Here, turn sharp left and take the short trail to Odessa Lake. Again find a spot here to kick back and relax. The scenery at Odessa is breathtaking.

When you’ve had your fill, head back to the main trail. The trail continues to descend to Fern Lake. We opted to eat lunch along the eastern shore of Fern Lake. Much like Bear Lake, Fern Lake was heavily populated. We saw several people fly fishing and picnicking along the shores of the lake.

From Fern Lake continue your descent along the main trail until you reach Fern Falls at approximately 6.5 miles. This 60 foot waterfall offers a nice photo opportunity and rest stop.

Continue on the main trail until you reach the Fern Lake trailhead. From here you’ll have to walk about 0.8 miles along the road to reach the shuttle stop.

To avoid the crowds start this trek early in the morning or consider exploring the park on a weekday. Regardless, scenery along this hike can’t be beat.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Hiking boots
  • Food for picnicking
  • Camera
  • Trekking poles
Show More
Activities Chillin, Fishing, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Thanks for a short but informative description!

Just one question, what is the best time to do this hike? We are looking several options with first week of October being the most likely. Is October really cold and snow covered or there is a chance to find a blue sky with fall colors? Thanks again!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Climb Notchtop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Park at Bear Lake, and follow the signs north of the lake to Odessa Lake.

67 Saves

Hike to Nymph Lake

While not as popular as Dream Lake, Nymph Lake is just as beautiful. The hike to Nymph Lake is an easy hike just over 1 mile.

163 Saves

Hike to Ptarmigan Lake

The hike to Ptarmigan Lake has plenty of elevation gain for mountain lovers and views for miles from the Continental Divide.

212 Saves