The contemporary phenomenon of “meetups” – a powerful way for people with like-minded interests to get together to enjoy their interest – has been quite useful for a newcomer like me to experience excellent hiking opportunities I am, as a newcomer, mostly unaware of in my new locale. I also enjoy the way “meetups” allow me to meet and nurture new friendships in my new town.
On this particular weekend, I have a friend visiting from Geneva Switzerland. I had promised to take him on a nice hike, and decided that the best way to find such a hike (and to catch a ride – since neither of us had a car) was to sign up with the local “Grey Wolves” meetup for their hike planned for the weekend.
The hike scheduled is for Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have previously done quite a few hikes at RMNP, but had not yet been to Fern Lake.
To be honest, I was not expecting much. “Fern Lake,” frankly, does not evoke images of grand waterfalls and soaring mountains.
There are eight of us in our group, and we start off from the trail head at about 9:30 am. Not expecting much, I am not surprised by the unremarkable trail in its first mile. The trail starts off quite wide, smooth and level in a forest setting.
Soon, however, we have a roaring creek beside us. It is the Big Thompson River, which is raging due to the spring/summer runoff of snowmelt from the mountains. This is the same river that inundated Boulder with its largest flood several decades ago.
On our other side loom quite tall, steep canyon walls, and very large boulders and tallus fields. We are a bit too early for a full showing of wildflowers, but the early flowers give us a wonderful view.
The trail crosses back and forth from one side to the other of the Big Thompson. We find ourselves regularly encountering rapids and big waves on the river. Soon, we arrive at “The Pool,” which is an extremely impressive constriction of the river as it snakes through narrow rock walls, sending a boiling, foamy froth of fast-moving, deep water down its channel.
For the second half of our hike to Fern Lake, the trail begins to rise to the point where there is a steady, somewhat steep and rocky incline for most of the second half of the hike to Fern Lake. We enjoy wonderful vista views of hills and mountains off in the distance. The relatively loud roar we now hear announces to us that we are approaching Fern Falls, which today is a strong, powerful, misting falls.
We arrive at Fern Lake, which even on this late June date, is surrounded by deep snow mounds. The lake is highly photogenic, as it is framed by quite large, snow-capped mountains off in the distance to its west and north – and very close to the continental divide. These lake-framing mountains include Little Matterhorn, The Gable, Notchtop, Knobtop, and Castle Rock.
On our drive back, as we drive along the Big Thompson River in Estes Park, we are treated to a group of three deer which are someone seemingly causually wading across the rampaging Big Thompson. Who knew deer were so agile in strong river water?
The elevation gain from the trail head to Fern Lake is 1,380 feet. Roundtrip distance is 7.6 miles.
This link shows a photo movie of our hike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCShl_8s2g8