Bear Lake TH to Fern Lake TH
ElevationAscent: 1,180' 360 m
Descent: -2,524' -769 m
High: 10,656' 3,248 m
Low: 8,153' 2,485 m
GradeAvg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 28% (16°)
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“An epic alpine point-to-point made possible by RMNP's free shuttle system.”— Brian Smith
At the top of the ridge, turn left onto Flattop Mountain Trail and continue uphill. Shortly after joining the Flattop Mountain Trail, look for the Fern - Odessa Lake Trail to branch off to the right - follow it.
Ascend the along southern flank of Joe Mills Mountain and take in views of Notch Top Mountain. As you round the western ridge of Joe Mills Mountain, there will be views down to Two Rivers Lake and Lake Helene. From here, it's all downhill to Odessa Lake. As you run down the northwestern flank of Joe Mills Mountain, Little Matterhorn will undoubtedly steal your attention. The formation is a part of the eastern skirt of Knobtop Mountain and its sheer walls do share an uncanny resemblance to the real Matterhorn (on a much smaller scale).
Once you reach Odessa Lake, take a few moments to absorb the stunning scenery before continuing your run. Descend some switchbacks for about a half-mile down to Odessa Lake's downstairs neighbor, Fern Lake. From Fern Lake, views to the south of Tombstone Ridge abound.
Continue the descent from Fern Lake to a fork in the trail - stay left onto the Fern Lake Trail. The trail descends steeply along the western flank of the Fern Creek drainage before a switchback brings Fern Falls into view. The extent to which the falls are flowing will depend on the time of year and recent weather but the cascades are beautiful under almost any condition.
Descend a few more switchbacks on the Fern Lake Trail and eventually the grade will lessen significantly. Cross the Big Thompson River and follow is as it flows eastward. Finally, you'll reach the Fern Lake trailhead where you can catch a shuttle bus.
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Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes, History & Background
Land Manager: National Park Service - Rocky Mountain National Park