Rocky Mountain National Park: Cub Lake Loop

This 5.9-mile loop is great for eager flatlanders who are acclimating to the thin Rocky Mountain air.
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This 5.9-mile loop is great for eager flatlanders who are acclimating to the thin Rocky Mountain air.

At the center of this 5.9-mile loop is Moraine Park and the braided blues of the Big Thompson River, a world-class flyfishing river and stomping grounds for resident elk herds. Starting at the Club Lake Trailhead off of Fern Lake Road, hike clockwise and cross the river.

From here, you'll climb roughly 800 feet (this is little elevation gain compared to other trails in the park) past a campsite to Club Lake. Pause at several outposts to grab photos of Steep Mountain and Stones Peak.

Hikers rejoin the grassy banks of the Big Thompson after 3.6 miles, then trace its banks going east past giant boulders and marshy areas. Trail ends at Fern Lake Road. To close the loop, walk the road back to the trailhead.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo

-Mapped by Jeff Chow

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 9.5

Waypoints

WPT001

Location: 40.35717, -105.619293

From the parking area, walk east on Fern Lake Road for 0.2 mile.

WPT002

Location: 40.356182, -105.615944

Cub Lake Trailhead: Hike south on Cub Lake Trail. The trail winds through Moraine Park.

WPT003

Location: 40.355415, -105.616051

Cross the Big Thompson and continue south. Views extend across a grassy meadow. Watch for marmots and grazing elk. Lucky hikers may spot coyotes roaming the area.

WPT004

Location: 40.351399, -105.621651

Pass by the Beaver Ponds on the left as you begin the gradual climb to Cub Lake.

WPT005

Location: 40.346535, -105.639366

Pass Cub Creek Campsite.

WPT006

Location: 40.346233, -105.641052

The first glimpse of Cub Lake appears on the left. Ahead, you'll pass unobstructed views of the lake in 0.3 mile.

WPT007

Location: 40.346516, -105.646179

Look to the southeast for views across Cub Lake. Steep Mountain rises behind this small mountain lake (usually covered with lily pads).

WPT008

Location: 40.346609, -105.647128

Continue straight @ 3-way junction, heading west. A moderate downhill awaits. The trail to Mill Creek Basin enters on the left.

WPT009

Location: 40.3475, -105.654564

The forest opens, revealing incredible views of Stones Peak to the west.

WPT010

Location: 40.347351, -105.65535

Cross a bridge and continue hiking west along the base of 10,761-foot Mount Wuh.

WPT011

Location: 40.347252, -105.65593

Cross a small bridge. Continue descent to the Big Thompson.

WPT012

Location: 40.349384, -105.659599

Turn right @ T-junction onto Fern Lake Trail. Next, head east and cross a wooden bridge over The Pool (a stretch of rushing river). Add a lake: To visit Fern Lake, turn left @ T-junction and follow the trail roughly 1.8 miles.

WPT013

Location: 40.350017, -105.653481

Pass Arch Rocks Campsite.

WPT014

Location: 40.350404, -105.652578

Trail passes a bouldering area. You may spot chalk marks where climbers have scaled the 10-foot rocks.

WPT015

Location: 40.350532, -105.651184

Pass between towering 40-foot rocks.

WPT016

Location: 40.351768, -105.646484

Pass more bouldering rocks before meandering along the stream through shady aspen groves.

WPT017

Location: 40.354782, -105.631081

Walk past the Fern Lake Trailhead and follow the road 0.6 mile back to your car.

Grazing Elk

Location: 40.355424, -105.615864

Elk

Location: 40.353432, -105.616135

Yellow-Bellied Marmot

Location: 40.352467, -105.615616

Cub Creek Campground

Location: 40.347118, -105.638046

Views of Cub Lake

Location: 40.346619, -105.645966

Trail Sign

Location: 40.346585, -105.646677

Pine Cones

Location: 40.346626, -105.646935

Cliffs

Location: 40.346683, -105.64727

Stones Peak

Location: 40.347382, -105.65387

Trail offers views of Stones Peak to the west.

Stones Peak

Location: 40.347416, -105.654053

Waterfalls

Location: 40.347515, -105.65477

Big Thompson River Sign

Location: 40.349316, -105.659332

Arch Rocks Campsite

Location: 40.349266, -105.65535

Bouldering Site

Location: 40.350436, -105.652342

Marsh

Location: 40.352249, -105.6446

Wildlife

Location: 40.355717, -105.62693