The Fern Lake trailhead is located at the west side of Moraine Park, along with Horseshoe Park one of the main glacier formed valleys on the east side of the Continental Divide. These valleys are now home to large herds of elk, deer, bighorn sheep, coyote and numerous small animals and birds. This, combined with lush and varied vegetation and flowers, make this area one of my favorite sections of the Park for an enjoyable hike. There are numerous loops and shuttles that can be combined with the Bear Lake, Cub Lake, and Hallowell Park trail systems. In September and October this region is setting for the elk rut, as majestic a wildlife spectacle as you can hope to see.
Given its relatively low elevation and distance from the peaks this is not a usual trailhead for a climb, but at least one remote peak on SP uses this trailhead as the best access!
The road to Fern Lake is accessed from the Bear Lake road, which starts at the Beaver Meadows Entrance of RMNP. From downtown Estes Park take US Highway 36. If you are traveling west through Estes on Elkhorn Avenue, the main street in town, turn left (south) at the traffic
light at Moraine Ave. Note this is a double lane turn, and not everyone realizes that.
Moraine Avenue climbs a short hill then makes a hard right at a stop sign, but you don't need to stop for the right turn. Follow Moraine Avenue past assorted shops and one traffic light to the Park entrance (about 3.5 miles).
From the entrance travel 0.2 miles and turn left on the Bear Lake Road. From there it is 1 1/4 miles to the Fern Lake Trailhead and Moraine Park Campground road. The turn-off is to the right (west), and is just across the road from the Moraine Park Visitor Center.
Less than a mile after the turn-off you come to the entrance to the Moraine Park Campground. Turn left before entering the campground and continue 2 miles to the trailhead. The road is narrow and becomes dirt at the Cub Lake trailhead, about 1 mile from the left turn. The last mile to the Fern Lake trailhead is closed in winter.
Elk and deer frequent the road, as do tourists who stop without warning to photograph them.
You can use the Park's shuttle system to get to the trailhead, parking your car at one of the other stops, making for a convienent way to arrange a car shuttle. For example you could hike from the Fern Lake trailhead to Bear Lake, or the other way if you prefer walking downhill.
SP member Arthur Digbee
reminded me that the shuttle system does not go all the way to the trailhead but stops 0.7 miles before the last parking lot. (There are also some small parking lots scattered across that final 0.7 miles.)
The bus stops where the road narrows at the winter closure gate.
External LinksMaps of Estes Park
showing access roads to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park Shuttle Bus Service