- 10.3 mile loop (flexible)
- Elevation gain: 1,338 feet
- 3-5 hours
- Moderately strenuous
- 2 lakes & 2 waterfalls!
Distance from Denver: 2 hours
Parking: Free (but $20 park entrance fee)
This loop allows you to pack a lot of beautiful sights into a single hike – there’s always something cool to see along the way! Much of the route is along the pretty Big Thompson River and you will pass mountains, rock formations, creeks, swimming holes, waterfalls, lakes, and more.
Begin the hike at Fern Lake Trailhead, which you can reach via car (there are some small lots nearby) or the Moraine Park route of the free park shuttle for which you can park at the Moraine Park Discovery Center (I recommend the latter to avoid a parking hassle).
Take the trail east and you will reach The Pool, a dramatic gathering of rapids where the Big Thompson River meets a creek. From there, head uphill along the river – after a climb, you will see an impressive waterfall on your right. Head up switchbacks until you reach Fern Falls on the left side of the trail. After you enjoy a peaceful moment at this tall waterfall, continue straight – you will see a junction for Spruce Lake to the right which would add another 1.6 total miles to the already 10+ mile hike if you’re up for it. Once you continue on the Fern Lake trail, you will soon reach Fern Lake, an incredibly scenic lake surrounded by tall silver crags. A loop trail takes you around the lake – don’t miss the historic cabin that actually used to serve food in the early 1900’s before the lake was returned to a more natural state.
When you are ready to begin the return journey, head back down the Fern Lake trail and take it all the way to The Pool at the bottom of the hill. Then, make a right onto the Cub Lake Trail which takes you alongside this lively lily flower-covered lake before depositing you at the Cub Lake Trailhead. If you drove, you will have to backtrack along the road to where you parked or simply hop on the park shuttle here.