Hiking Fern Lake – RMNP

Crystal Profile Pic

By Crystal Egli


“Get up Crystal, there’s a moose across the lake!” is pretty much the only sentence that could get me out of my hammock, other than “dinner is ready.” I was dozing, swaying in a light breeze as our friends Melanie & Brandon spotted the moose across Fern Lake. She had walked down to the shore and was hanging out about 3 feet away from an angler who had frozen in place while tying on a new fly. Finally the Lady Moose moved on and the angler relaxed. Moving in a counter-clockwise direction around the lake, LadyMoose disappeared into the woods.


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LadyMoose, Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park


We lost sight of her for a few minutes when suddenly she appeared directly behind Andre, who was still fishing, completely unaware. Torn between wanting to take a photo and warning my unsuspecting husband there was a giant moose lumbering directly toward his back side, I went with warning him. (Totally should have gone for the picture.) Andre was fishing up shore about 300 yards to our left, so with a harshly whispered yell I threw my hands up on top of my head to indicate “antlers” and tried to spit out “Andre! Moose!” then vigorously pointed behind him. Andre turned around just in time to snap these:



Melanie had inched to the left to get a better view of Andre’s new friend, when all of a sudden LadyMoose started running straight for her. I tried to record a video on my phone but I was also yelling at Melanie to move so I accidentally just took a photo:


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Avoiding a rushing moose, Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park


After LadyMoose narrowly passed by Melanie, she moved directly between where Brandon & I were and the lake. She was headed straight toward Melanie & Brandon’s gear. Finally, I was able to start recording video, and so did Brandon at the same time. I cut our two cameras together in the video below. You can see LadyMoose continuing slowly around the shore, but suddenly she gets startled when she sees the gear, and she makes an abrupt turn and runs straight toward Brandon for a second! She quickly changes direction and runs off into the woods.



If you’ve never seen a moose in person before, it’s freaking MAJESTIC. It’s not like seeing a deer, or even an elk. Moose are massive, lumbering creatures that could take you out with a casual flick of their hoof. Moose are a thing of beauty, and if you want a chance to see one, head to RMNP and quietly hang out in a forested area near water, like Fern Lake.


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Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park



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Elk near the Fern Lake parking lot, Rocky Mountain National Park

Click here for directions to the Fern Lake trailhead.

The trailhead to Fern Lake is located just past the trailhead to Cub Lake, in the Moraine Park section of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you arrive real early (before 7:30am) you can try to park all the way at the actual trailhead, but that parking lot fills up quick so there are overflow lots along the road where you can usually grab a spot to park before 9:30.


Fern Lake Trail is a 7.6 mile hike round trip, so bring extra water and snacks. The trailhead starts at an elevation of 8,165′, and climbs to 9,540′, which means you’ll want to take it slow if you’re from out of town. RMNP rates the hike as “strenuous”, but I would call it moderate. There are some hills, rocky parts, and rivers you traverse via fallen log, but the trail is by no means difficult.




Keep an eye open for wildlife. In addition to the beautiful LadyMoose, we also saw tons of elk, deer, and a hawk defending its nest in an epic battle with a pine marten. In addition to all those cool terrestrial animals, Fern Lake is filled with a pretty cool species of fish- the Greenback Cutthroat Trout. Anglers get excited about these as they are one of 3 native species of Colorado trout, a prize for any fly fisher. For more info on catching these babies, check out Andre’s post by clicking here: Fly Fishing Fern Lake.



In addition to all those amazing animals, there are beautiful flowers and birds abound, so take this trail slow, and don’t be afraid to stop and smell the Spotted Coralroot.



Bring bug spray! There are Schwarzenegger size mosquitoes in these woods.


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Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park



Fern Lake trail was an absolutely amazing hike. The scenery was gorgeous, the trail wasn’t crowded despite it being a beautiful weekend in the late spring, I have never seen such wildlife diversity on one hike in my entire life, the fishing is solid, and there were sweet spots abound to hang my hammock lakeside.


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All the photos in this post were taken in one day. Just imagine what you will find.


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Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park


I’m not sure a hike can get any better than this.

– C. Egli

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