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Bear Lake to Fern Lake point-to-point

Hiking route · United States of America
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  • Photo: Shan Nagar, Macs Adventure
m 3200 3000 2800 2600 2400 2200 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km
A beautiful point-to-point hike made possible by RMNP's shuttle system. Mountain views, pine forests, alpine lakes - this hike has it all!
Distance 15 km
4:30 h
364 m
782 m
3,250 m
2,468 m
This hike, starts from the park's most popular site: Bear Lake. However, while most crowds head from Bear Lake up the popular Dream Lake Trail, you will quickly leave the crowds behind as you start the hike. This hike is 1/3 climbing followed by 2/3 of descent, so while you will cover a lot of ground, it's never too challenging! As you finish the climbing portion of the hike, you will enjoy views of stunning, sheer mountain faces against the Continental Divide. As you descend for the rest of the hike, you will pass beautiful alpine lakes (Odessa Lake, Fern Lake), and walk alongside peaceful streams as you make your way back to your car at the Fern Lake Trailhead.

Author’s recommendation

If you brought your fly fishing gear on this trip, this is the hike to use it! The alpine lakes are full of cutthroat trout, and it's hard to imagine a more beautiful place to fish. But please - don't fish without a license!
Profile picture of Shan Nagar
Shan Nagar
Update: July 17, 2019
Highest point
3,250 m
Lowest point
2,468 m
Best time of year

Track types

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Safety information

In early season the section after Fern Lake can still have snow on the trail. If this is the case we recommend turning back and walking back the trail you arrived on, giving you a chance to admire the views as you descend.

Tips and hints

Points of Interest


Odessa Lake

Seeing all of Odessa Lake requires a brief detour around the 3.8mi. mark, but is well-worth the extra few steps. It's a beautiful and quiet lake, framed by mountains on all sides.


Fern Lake

The trail goes right past Fern Lake, so it's hard to miss! A bridge takes you right over the lake, and then passes the Fern Lake Patrol Cabin, a former ranger station. The cabin was built in 1925, and is included on the US National Register of Historic Places.


Fern Falls

Depending on the time of year (and how much snow the region got during the winter), the falls can be anywhere from a trickle to a deluge! No matter how much water is flowing, however, it's always a good stopping point to snap a picture and cool off in the mist of the falls.


Food & Drink

Stock up on food and water before you start the hike! Carry at least 2 litres of water per person, along with snacks and a packed lunch. Grand Lake is the only place to stock up before you start the hike, so make sure to stop by a market or grocery store before leaving town.


Bear Lake Trailhead (2,886 m)
40.311985, -105.645968
40°18'43.1"N 105°38'45.5"W
13T 445111 4462585


Fern Lake shuttle stop

Turn-by-turn directions

While today's hike starts at the Bear Lake trailhead, you will park your car at the Fern Lake shuttle stop. From Fern Lake, the shuttle to the main Park 'N' Ride station leaves every 30 minutes, starting at 7am. Once you reach the main Park 'N' Ride, you will see the large covered waiting area that is the shuttle stop to take you to Bear Lake. In the peak summer months, these shutttles leave every 15 minutes.


0.0 mi. - Standing at the Bear Lake shuttle stop with the parking lot directly behind you, you will see a wooden footbridge directly in front of you. Start walking STRAIGHT ON to cross the footbridge.


100 ft. - At a "T'-junction, you'll see a wooden sign pointing towards several different trails, both to the right and to the left. The arrow pointing right indicates the trails to Bear Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Fern Lake, and Flat Top Mountain; TURN RIGHT to follow the arrow pointing towards Fern Lake.


200 ft. - At a fork in the trail, BEAR RIGHT.


750 ft. - At another fork in the trail, you'll see a trail branching off to the right with a set of steps, and a sign pointing for "Fern Lake". TURN RIGHT to follow these stairs towards Fern Lake.


1050 ft. - At the fork in the trail, BEAR LEFT.


2600 ft. - At another fork in the trail, you'll see a couple of wooden signs. Directly in front of you, you'll see a sign with arrows pointing to the left for "Odessa Lake", "Flat Top Mountain", and "Fern Lake"; TURN LEFT to follow the trail to Fern Lake.


5200 ft. - Another fork in the trail will have a sign with an arrow pointing left to "Flat Top Mountain", and to the right to "Odessa Lake" and "Fern Lake". BEAR RIGHT to follow the trail to Fern Lake.


2.6 mi. - A sign on the left-hand side will point to a trail that leads to the Sourdough campsite; ignore this trail and continue STRAIGHT ON along the main trail.


4.0 mi. - At this point, the trail will reach a junction, with one trail continuing straight in front of you, and another trail that leads back the way you came from, but further to the left. TURN LEFT to take a detour to Odessa Lake; otherwise, continue STRAIGHT ON to follow the trail to Fern Lake.


4.8 mi. - On your left, you'll be passing Fern Lake. In front of you is a wooden sign point to an outhouse on your right; BEAR RIGHT to stay on the main trail, which will take you back down to the trailhead.


4.9 mi. - On your left you'll see the old Fern Lake Patrol Cabin; BEAR RIGHT to follow the trail to the Fern Lake trailhead.


4.9 mi. - About 100 feet later, you'll reach a junction in the trails. On your right, you'll see a trail that has a hitching station for horses; in the summer, there's a good chance that there will be horses tied up here from a trail ride! In any event, BEAR RIGHT to follow the trail that goes past the horses hitching station and onward towards the Fern Lake Trailhead.


6.9 mi. - At a "T"-junction at the trail, you'll see a bridge on your left that crosses the stream, and another trail that continues off on your right. TURN LEFT to cross the bridge, then continue STRAIGHT ON along the trail.


7.3 mi. - At a fork in the trail, BEAR RIGHT.


8.7 mi. - At the Fern Lake Trailhead, you will continue STRAIGHT ON along the road to return to the Fern Lake shuttle stop.


9.3 mi. - Congratulations, you've finished today's hike! You should be back at the Fern Lake shuttle stop parking lot.


all notes on protected areas


40.311985, -105.645968
40°18'43.1"N 105°38'45.5"W
13T 445111 4462585
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


We recommend wearing hiking boots that are well broken-in, plus a rain jacket and waterproof trousers in wet weather, as well as taking sun cream and a hat on nicer days.

In your information pack, you’ll find a detailed list of all the required hiking gear, including some good hiking boots, appropriate clothing, a rain jacket and a backpack.

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15 km
4:30 h
364 m
782 m
Highest point
3,250 m
Lowest point
2,468 m


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