The Hike to Fern Lake With a stop at fern falls along the way

On this particular early spring day as I was heading to the park (just outside of Estes Park) the morning drive was very foggy.

Even more foggy as I gained elevation toward Estes Park... almost to the point where I was going to call the day. But I reminded myself that with the fog and gloomy conditions I could probably get some interesting perspectives into the shots and to not give up on the day's weather.

I always like to get an early start for a couple of reasons. From a photography perspective... and this is a photography site... early morning light offers the best selection of softer light and shadowing.

So, if you want to immediately improve your pictures of such beautiful places as the Rocky Mountain National Park you need to take advantage of the either of the golden hours... early mornings or early evenings when the light softens for you... especially if you're composing with water. The second is... you beat the crowds and get a good place to park at the trail-head.

The trail to Fern Lake is a great hike if you happen to like hikes that follow along water features... well... who doesn't. So it's a great hike.

The lake itself is about 3.85 miles from the trail-head in Rocky Mountain National Park (east side).

The Fern Lake trail itself early on is really a great walk along the Big Thompson river that offers any number of side trips down to the water along the river itself.

The trail gently waves itself along through a mix of Aspen trees, pine trees and interesting and very large condo sized Arch Rocks to the first milestone of a place called The Pool.

The Pool (at about 1.75 miles) is a section of churning waters and a whirlpool where the likes of Fern Creek and the Big Thompson river collide.

This is also the intersection of the Cub Lake trail.

But for today, I'll stay the course up to Fern Falls and then on up Fern Lake. At this point I'm around 8,300 feet up in the Rocky Mountains.

As the day moved forward the fog was consistently being burnt away by the sun and the gradual warming of the day... and with no wind blowing on this particular day, it had morphed into a great early spring cool and quiet day to continue up to the lake.

Fern Falls is the next milestone and stop on the way to the lake and for good reason.

This falls is a beautiful 60 foot waterfall that is a part of Fern Creek and definitely a spot to set up and grab a few pictures. To get to the Fern Falls I follow the trail up and to right just over the bridge and past The Pool.

It's only a little over a mile to the falls but it's a climb of about 400 feet that will most certainly wake up and heat up the ol quadriceps.

Again, the trek of to the falls basically follows alongside Fern Creek and offers many spots to sidebar the trail and take in the beauty of this Rocky Mountain creek and the surrounding area.

As I reach Fern Falls this early spring morning I'm reminded of why I particularly like these early in the season treks.

The cool weather does just that... it keeps you cool on the ascents, but I really like the experience of actually going back through the seasons as I work my way higher in altitude.

Yes, to this point, there has been no mention of snow on the trail at all.

But as I approach Fern Falls the trail begins to have spotty areas of stubborn snow that is clinging to its right to be there even though it will eventually lose its competition with the Springtime weather... at least until next fall.

With the snow getting more prevalent, I stop at the falls to not only setup and take some pictures, but to put on my snow chains as well... microspikes.

The snow is only going to get deeper once I begin the accent from Fern Falls to Fern Lake itself.

The mile plus trek up to Fern Lake is a bit more strenuous and about another 650 feet up. Glad that I did add my snow chains because the trail is now well below the snow pack and quite a cardio workout at this point with the up hill slipping and sliding a bit even with the traction devices on my boots.

For this final rise to Fern Lake the trail isn't as close to the creek, but it's still a pretty jaunt that takes up through the pine forest to the basin itself.

The Lake itself is greets you at about 3.85 miles from the parking at the trail-head and I'm now at an elevation of just over 9,500 feet.

On this spring day... early in the morning spring day I have the place to myself and it is really beautiful.

Fern Lake is still frozen and covered with snow except for a small thawed patch at the exit end of the lake.

The peace and tranquility of the lake as I get there is indescribable... and I'm reminded why I do this... no other humans... just me.

So peaceful. The lake is framed by the Little Matterhorn at 11,586 feet, Knobtob Mountain at 12,331 feet, Gabletop Mountain at 11,939 feet and Castle Rock... what a backdrop!

Before I walk around and take the pictures I grab snack and just kick back for a bit and just enjoy the moment of the day.

Created By
Jeff Purcell


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