Fern Lake Backcountry Campsite offers three individual campsites and one group site at the northern end of Fern Lake off the Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. The campsites make an ideal getaway with great views. The individual sites, located at 9,530 feet, are in a spruce and fir forest reached by a short trail off the Spruce Lake Trail on the northwest side of the lake while the group site is east of the Odessa Lake Trail on the lake’s northeast side. A wooden sign marks the turnoff to the campsites and the trail may be marked with red arrowheads on trees. Two pit toilets are at the campsites. Water is available from Fern Creek at both the lake’s inlet and outlet streams. Remember to boil or treat all water before drinking. Fern Lake campsites are 3.8 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead and 4.7 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead. Allow four to five hours to hike to the campsites.

Pro Tips

  • Fern Lake campsites are reached from the Fern Lake Trailhead on the west side of Moraine Park. Hike 3.8 miles, gaining 1,348 feet, up Fern Lake Trail to the campsites. It’s also accessed from Bear Lake Trailhead at the end of Bear Lake Road. Hike Flattop Mountain Trail for 0.8 miles, then the Fern-Odessa Lakes Trail for 3.9 miles to Fern Lake. The park’s website has a map of the campsites.
  • A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Obtain a permit at the Park Headquarters Backcountry Office next to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center west of Estes Park or at Kawuneeche Visitor Center north of Grand Lake, and at the park website.
  • To obtain a permit you agree to obey all National Park regulations for backcountry camping. The Backcountry Use Permit must be with you at all times and a tent tag must be displayed on your pack while hiking and on your tent. You must follow your planned itinerary so campsites aren’t overused or crowded. You also receive a tag to place on the dashboard of your vehicle, allowing you to park overnight at trailheads without being towed.
  • Use a Leave No Trace ethic when using Fern Lake Backcountry Campsite. Pitch your tent in a designated area and don’t dig a trench around it. Secure your food and garbage. Black bears are in the park so bring your food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required May to October in all campsites below timberline. Keep all food, trash, and scented items in the container and store it 200 feet from the campsite. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them. Use the pit toilet at the campsite, otherwise dig a six-inch deep hole and bury your waste and toilet paper. Make sure you’re at least 200 feet from the campsite, water sources, and trails. Fires are not permitted.
  • Recommended season(s): Year-round.

    —Stewart M. Green


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