Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
This morning we decided to complete a 9ish mile point-to-point trail, starting at Bear Lake. We utilized the park n ride a lot during this trip. The reliable shuttles are very helpful when it comes to anything starting or ending at Bear Lake, Beirstadt Lake, or the Glacier Gorge trailheads. They also service other portions of the park but these are the most heavily trafficked. It was extremely foggy, so we only had about 20 feet of visibility for about half the hike. We started at the Bear Lake trail, and went partially around the lake to the right until we hit a junction for Odessa Lake and Flattop Mountain.
The first three miles of the hike took us through towering pine trees, made spooky in appearance by the dense fog. We reached Lake Helene but unfortunately it was too foggy to see much.
Next we wound down a rocky slope and caught some magnificent glimpses of mountain tops when the fog would momentarily break. We are sure the view would have been wonderful had it not been so foggy.
We reached Odessa Lake with near-perfect timing, as the mist broke and the sun poked itself through the clouds just enough for us to see the rugged, jagged mountain towering adjacent to the clear green-blue water. Within ten minutes it was foggy again but we had a gorgeous view.
Next, we made our way to Fern Lake, which was also foggy. Fern falls was our next destination. The trail at this point had been going downhill since Lake Helene, and it did not stop here. Fern Falls was a large, tumbling waterfall that did not disappoint.
The Pool, a cascading river with spots that pooled up around branches (hence the name, The Pool), was about 1 mile from Fern Falls (still downhill). Finally, we began to travel back uphill to Cub lake. The autumn leaves were the most brilliant on this portion of the hike; neon yellows and fiery oranges lit up the mountainsides we hiked through. Cub Lake is a partially lily-pad covered lake nestled into the valley, surrounded by fall aspens. Supposedly there was a moose but we could not see it.
The final two miles of the hike were downhill or flat, through a meadow with pleasant views of the mountains. We were treated with the show of about 15 elk in the river, and two male elk fighting.
We just happened to visit Estes Park during rut season, which is when the male elk (bulls) fight over the hearts of the female elk (cows). During this season, the bulls are more aggressive than usual. We can attest to this as we saw several elk on the trails themselves, and even in downtown Estes Park. Driving through the park everyday we were near guaranteed a sighting of at least one elk, if not a whole harem. Several times we also heard them bugling, which is the high pitched- to low-pitched cry the male elk make. It was undescribable.
We finished our hike around 2pm, so much of the day remained. All in all, the hike was 10.5 miles. We started at the Bear lake trailhead and finished at the Cub Lake trailhead. At The Pool there is the option to just go back to the Fern Lake trailhead for a 9.5 mile hike, but we really wanted to fit in one more lake. We drove over to Lily lake again for a small stroll around the water, then went to Safeway and just hung out for the night at our Airbnb.
http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/bear-lake-fern-lake.htm –> bear lake to fern lake loop