All the information you need for all THREE experiences on the Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
including: The Pool, Fern Falls, and Fern Lake
By the end of this article, you will be able to feel confident in hiking to the Pool, Fern Falls, and all the way to Fern Lake on the Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.
INCLUDED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Highlights and Information on the Pool, Fern Falls and Fern Lake on the Fern Lake Trail Hike
Driving Directions to the starting point at Fern Lake Trailhead from Estes Park
TO THE POINT Clear and Concise Summary Directions
2D Map showing directions to the Trailhead (start of hike)
STEP-BY-STEP DETAILED Directions for the “Map-ically Challenged!”
3D Map showing topographical detail of the trail
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Highlights and Information Before You Start
National Parks Pass
Get your National Park Pass, or any kind of Entrance Passes that you need now. If you are curious about the National Park Pass, we have several ways for you to maximize on that pass!
Many people hike the Fern Lake Trail near Estes Park. It can get very busy in this popular national park! You may choose to ride the shuttle bus service available at Rocky Mountain National Park during the operating months May through October. Please check the National Park Service Website Here in order to see dates, times, and a map of the shuttle bus service within RMNP!
Updated Trail Conditions
Fern Falls and Fern Lake Trail conditions can be found here. Updated Trail Conditions can be found by clicking here.
Colorado Road Conditions
Fern Falls and Fern Lake weather can be fickle, and its always important to look at the road conditions. Road Conditions in Colorado can be found by clicking here.
Depending on where you are going, and when, and who is going with you, you will need to pack certain gear. Take time before to find, purchase, and pack the gear you need. Consider our 17 things you need to pack, but didn’t think of, as well as our list of essentials for a day hike. You can even check out our guide to gifts for hikers and adventurers to give you ideas regarding items that you may need (or want!) to make your vacation even better!
Gear is really important, and give yourself the time to think, research, and plan for the things that you will most need and want during your vacation. Frankly, I even make lists for food and clothing. (But like I said, I’m a planner, people.) And speaking of planning – check out this printable we have for you below!
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Highlights and Quick Reference Guide
- Moderate (a bit difficult all the way at the end if you decide to go that far, and the weather still has snow on the ground, check the whole post, as I go into detail about this.)
- 7.8 miles round trip
- About 5-6 hours hiking time
- Fern Lake Trail Elevation is 8,155 – 9,530 (bring water!)
- No fees, except the park entrance fees
- Beautiful lake views, and an incredible hike
- Kids could do some of this – depending on the kid! It makes for a long day!
- Doggies are not allowed (but you may see Equestrians)
To the Point Summary Directions
These directions to hike to the Pool, Fern Falls and Fern Lake are clear and concise, without extra commentary! Use these directions, and if you ever feel confused, always refer to the map and directions below that are more detailed and include even more specific directions.
0.0 Start at Fern Lake Trailhead
1.5 Pass between the Arch Rocks on either side of the trail
1.7 Arrive at the Rock and Timber bridge over the Big Thompson River at The Pool (1st stop!) Cross the bridge and turn right to Fern Falls and Fern Lake
2.7 Arrive at Fern Falls (2nd stop!)
3.8 Keep walking and you will see Fern Lake (3rd stop!). THIS is the part that may still have deep snow on it.
7.8 Turn around, come back the way you came and you will end up back at Fern Lake Trailhead.
Step by Step DETAILED Directions
Your days of feeling “Map-ically Challenged” are over! (Trademark on that pending!) These maps (both simple and detailed), along with exceptionally clear instructions, are all provided for you in this post!
- Start early, grab your coffee at Kind Coffee or donut at Donut Haus in Estes Park, Colorado and head out!
- Travel on US 36 highway to Bear Lake Road.
- Make a left onto Bear Lake Road
- Stay on Bear Lake Road for 1.2 miles
- Turn RIGHT toward Moraine Park Campground
- Drive 0.5 miles and then turn left JUST BEFORE REACHING the campground.
- You will drive on this for a little over a mile and the pavement will end after 1.2 miles.
- Drive another 2 miles and the road ends.
- 0.0 Start at Fern Lake Trailhead
- 1.5 Pass between the Arch Rocks on either side of the trail
- 1.7 Arrive at the Rock and Timber bridge over the Big Thompson River at The Pool (Stop 1!) Cross the bridge and turn right to Fern Falls and Fern Lake
- 2.7 Arrive at Fern Falls (Stop 2!)
- 3.8 Keep walking and you will see Fern Lake (Stop 3!). THIS is the part that may still have deep snow on it.
- 7.8 Turn around, come back the way you came and you will end up back at Fern Lake Trailhead.
Please note: The 3D map below is NOT FACING NORTH (on purpose!). These maps are shown specifically for those of us who are “map-ically challenged” and need to visually see which way we are hiking. Please refer to the compass at the bottom right of the map below to show where NORTH actually is!
CLICK ON THE MAP BELOW, OR CLICK HERE, AND YOU WILL LINK TO THIS EXACT GOOGLE MAP. You can zoom in on it and take as many screenshots as you would like! If you bring up the map in Google, if you use your mouse and hit CONTROL, then you can MOVE the map to the direction in which you are ACTUALLY HEADED!!!! (Amazing!)
When you click on this, and open the map, you can then click on the link below the blue box on the left and have these directions sent DIRECTLY TO YOUR PHONE! You can then screenshot those images, so that you can see these directions, and maps, even if you do not have wi-fi as you are hiking!
Finally – look look LOOK! AT THE BOTTOM RIGHT of the map. See that little yellow guy? Click on him when you open up the map on your phone. You can see ACTUAL PICTURES on the blue dots that people have taken. This is a GREAT resource to have. If you look at your map before you go, you can screenshot what the intersections in the trail look like to help you navigate your way, and not get lost!
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More Information and Resources
Final Thoughts on Fern Lake Trail Hike
This hike is amazing. The reason? You can hit one stop, two stops, or all three! Really, it depends on your comfort level, and at any time you can just turn around the way you came because its really hard to get lost on this trail!
Just remember that there might be some snow still on the ground on that last leg before you get to Fern Lake – so PLEASE use discretion and gauge your own ability. The Lake will always be there another day. It’s so important to know your limits because that is truly when injuries happen – when you just so desparately want to see something that it clouds your judgment! (We’ve all been there!)
If you are feeling more adventurous after this hike, or maybe even the next day, you can try to do the Cub Lake Trail hike, which is very close to this one! Check out my article and full detailed maps on that as well! I hope you are finding them helpful!
When you are ready to finally have your National Park Family Vacation!
Hopefully, you already have all of your reservations, your tickets, and gear planned out! A last minute checklist is so important to make sure that nothing gets left behind. Here are a few extra hacks and tips for your road trip and family vacation! Want even MORE free options? Simple! Just subscribe at the bottom of this post to be part of the Van Adieu Crew and get access to the FREE Van Adieu Vault filled with itineraries, checklists, roadmaps and more!
- Confirm all reservations, tickets, and any events you may be attending (Best suggestion: Print copies of everything and have it with you.)
- Confirm the route you are going. (Best suggestion: Purchase an atlas, as in, an actual real map – on honest to goodness old fashioned paper.)
- Check all gear. (Best suggestion: Discuss this gear with everyone. Is there something that someone would like to have? For example, is someone interested in doing geocaching on the trip? Maybe a waterproof notebook and waterproof pen would be fun for them!)
- Make sure to look at our Road Trip Checklist!
- Make a shopping list, and purchase all possible groceries ahead of time. (Best suggestion: Figure out not only each meal, but also prepare snacks in individually wrapped packages to make the trip more fun and super easy!) Or try to find the best Farmer’s Market where you are going – its easy!
- Consider what you will be doing during the road trip. We have some great road trip activities for kids, and also some fantastic productive and unique activities for adults!
Tell us about your Mills Lake Hike Experience! Did you add any other hikes to it? What part did you find to be the most beautiful? Did you think it was easy or a difficult hike? We’d love to hear your opinions and experiences, and see your pictures! Comment below! And remember to like us on FACEBOOK! (Its cool, and all the kids are doing it!)
Tell me about your Fern Lake Trail experiences! Did you think the hike was easy or difficult? Did you make one stop, two, or three? I’d love to hear your opinions and your experiences! I’d love to see your pictures as well! Seriously! Send pics!!!!