Monday, July 11, 2011

Family Summer Trip Day 4 - RMNP Fern Falls Trail

Today was to be our only full day in RMNP and I planned on taking the whole day to explore a trail none of us had ever traveled, the Fern Lake Trail.  The trailhead is near the Moraine Park campground where we were camping.  My first thought was to just make the 2 mile trek to the trailhead, then hike to The Pool, then around to Cub Lake and back to the campsite.  Then, I decided to save the initial 2 mile hike to the trailhead by driving to there and then letting the family go on back to the campsite while I hike 1 mile back to the car.  Sounded like a do-able plan.

The Fern Lake Trail to The Pool is fairly level with very little elevation gain or loss.  It is only about 2.5 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead to The Pool.  Our plan was to hike to The Pool and have lunch, then hike around to Cub Lake and back to Moraine Park Campground.  The total hike was going to be around 6 miles.  If we felt energetic, we'd maybe try and get up to Fern Falls, but we'd heard there was quite a bit of snow and ice beyond The Pool.

The hike to The Pool is like most in RMNP, it is very beautiful with spectacular views of creeks, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and snow.  I have found very few hikes in RMNP that I haven't enjoyed.  This is a terrific hike for families, especially ones with small children as it is very easy and there are very few, if any, spots for the little ones to get hurt or get into too much trouble.  While we didn't see any, and probably never would, I could imagine parts of this being inhabited by Mountain Lions.  It was very warm and there were some nice cliffs overhanging the trail.  This would be a great perch for a big cougar.  I meant to ask the ranger about it, but if anyone can confirm this, I'd like to know.

About 1 mile in, during the spring or after a rain, there are some spectacular ephemeral waterfalls coming off the cliffs above and to the North side of the trail.

About half way, you come to a large rock which appears to be standing on end.  I believe this is called Arch Rocks.  It's amazing to see how these large boulders can stand like this for years without teetering over.  The pictures give you some idea of the scale.

Carrying on from here for about another mile, you arrive at a footbridge over the outlet of The Pool.  Just across the bridge are some rocks that sit above The Pool which are great for having lunch or a snack.  Below is a picture of The Pool.  It's a turbulent gathering of water along the Big Thompson River.  I fired up my Snow Peak Giga Stove and made the kids some Mac-n-Cheese as a reward for a good hike up.


We spoke with a few people while at The Pool who told us that we had done this hike in reverse and it was much easier to start at Cub Lake.  They said the hike from The Pool to Cub Lake was pretty strenuous.  My wife warned me not to burn the kids out this early in the trip.  Knowing we were still planning on going to The Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and the Escalante-Grand Staircase, I opted to just hike back to the car.  As she is most of the time, my wife was probably right on this occasion.  Besides, we had seen Cub Lake before, remember?

The next day, we'll pack the car up and drive to the Tetons!

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