Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Distance from Denver: ~70 miles (~1.5 hours) ♡ ♡ ♡
Hike: ~7mi ♡ ♡
Difficulty: Easy ♡ ♡ ♡
Parking Situation: Large lot, but fills up quickly ♡ ♡
Parking Fee: N/A, but there is a fee to enter the park. We purchase the annual America the Beautiful Parks pass, but they have other options such as the Rocky Mountain National Park pass.
Happy Thursday, friends! We hope your week has been amazing & you're as just excited to go hiking this weekend as we are! If you're looking for a full day hike without the strenuous heart pumping elevation gain, then look no further than what are calling the "Cub Lake Loop."
First, lets talk about the cutest outfit to wear (if this bores you, skip the next paragraph/picture). I love wearing yoga pants but especially in the hot summers that Colorado has, wearing the standard black / dark-er colored clothing items is a call for trouble. I found these teal high waisted yoga pants and they are just so darn comfortable and sweat wicking for the trail! I paired it with a white racerback top and grey shoes to deflect as much sunlight as possible while hiking this long loop!
Our original plan was to hike Mills Lake in the nearby Glacier Gorge area. Unfortunately, parking for the extended Glacier Gorge/Bear Lake area was so full that there were four rangers turning cars back. We were more than a little sad... and after the drive up from Denver, we were not about to leave the park empty-handed. We remembered that there was a trail near the Moraine Park area of RMNP from when we took engagement pictures, so we decided to explore that area a little bit. And friends, we were surprised at how great this area was!
To get here, follow the road to the Cub Lake Parking lot. Park as close to the trailhead for Cub Lake as you can. Then walk the one mile to the Fern Lake Trail. Take this trail through the woods to "the Pool." Hang left and hike another mile over to Cub Lake, and finish it off by heading through the woods back to your car. On paper, this adds up to ~6.3miles but Brandon's phone clocked us at ~7miles for the entire loop.
Parking at the Cub Lake Trailhead is not as crowded as in other places of the park; it's almost as though most people do not want to come down to the valley for a hike. There is a lot of street parking either at the trailhead or along the path to the trail. We suggest parking close to Cub Lake and walking the mile to the Fern Lake Trailhead at the outset, so that when you finish the loop, you are close to your car (as opposed to hiking another mile). Alternately, should you choose to use the RMNP free shuttle, there is also a stop right by the Cub Lake trailhead.
The ~1 mile hike from the Cub Lake trailhead to the Fern Lake trailhead is on a dirt road, but has stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains. It is populated by dandelions, so be sure to pick one & make a wish ♡
The mile is pretty short, and within no time you arrive at the Fern Lake trailhead to really begin the loop!
We loved how A L O N E this trail felt. We did run into other hikers, but it felt more sparse than our hike to the Chicago Lakes. There were tons of little areas to pull off the main trail and sit by the water. We read that this area supports catch-and-release fishing; if that's your thing, you HAVE to come here for the wonderful solitude.
We can't overemphasize how far away this felt from everyone; we could hear all the insects humming, the river roaring, and the birds chirping ♡ So magical!
At this point, we do feel the need to mention that the trail is littered with quite a bit of ... manure. It was EVERYWHERE you guys. Be careful or you'll just track it around with you for the entire day...GROSS. We let our imaginations run away with us as to what animal left the ripe gifts on the trail - moose? elk? bears?!?
Turns out, it was deer! We were literally just hiking when Brandon heard rustling to our right and soon enough I started hearing branches breaking. We glanced over (honestly more scared that it was bear) and saw this STUNNING creature just going about its business! ♡ It was less than 50ft away from us, and while Brandon was busy making sure we kept a safe distance away, I was busy documenting the Jane Doe's beauty.
If you look closely at the next picture, you can see some pretty fierce deer side-eye. Like "why are you taking pictures, I'm literally just going about my day." .... no comment, although I do admit it, if the roles were reversed it would be so strange to have animals walking around our house and taking pictures while OOH-ing & AAH-ing as we went about our everyday business. Wouldn't you agree?
As quickly as Jane Doe appeared, she pranced across the trail to the river. We were so in awe that we got to see a deer ON THE TRAIL - this is so rare and has only happened to us once before at Glacier National.
Not long after the deer encounter, we arrived at The Pool. We really didn't know what to expect, and quite frankly The Pool was a little underwhelming. We did enjoy climbing up to onto a boulder to eat our lunch, along with a handful of other folks.
From The Pool, the trail forks to the right to go to Fern Lake && to the left towards Cub Lake. We went to the left, and realized that most people do this loop "backwards" (i.e. hike to Cub Lake first, then to The Pool). We would not recommend this for a few reasons - 1) the hike is easier the way we went 2) you are going against the crowds 3) the first glance at Cub Lake is MUCH more awe-inspiring.
There is a slight uphill once you travel from the Pool to Cub Lake, but you guys it is totally manageable and only about 3/4 of a mile. Be sure to enjoy the waterfalls as well as sweeping vistas of the mountains behind you!
A quarter of a mile past this point, you get your first glance at Cub Lake & boy is she beautiful! It was really sad to see that the area hadn't yet recovered from what appeared to be fire damage, but we were reassured by some greenery interspersed amongst the charred trees.
The lake from afar is this B E A U T I F U L shade of electric blue and filled with lily pads! We found it so amusing that the lily pads naturally formed a ring around the center of the lake - what a cool pattern!! We sat on a boulder and ate some snacks while Brandon worked on his tan (read: burned). It was so peaceful and relaxing that honestly, I'd rate this as one of my favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National!
The hike back is just as beautiful, albeit more rocky and downhill. Be sure to enjoy the meadows and all of the creatures that live there! ♡
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