Rocky Mountain National Park: Cub Lake Loop - Backpacker

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.

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.

Hike Cub Lake Loop

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season).

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206;

-Mapped by Jeff Chow

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 9.5



Location: 40.35717, -105.619293

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


Location: 40.356182, -105.615944

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


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.


Location: 40.351399, -105.621651

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


Location: 40.346535, -105.639366

Pass Cub Creek Campsite.


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.


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).


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.


Location: 40.3475, -105.654564

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


Location: 40.347351, -105.65535

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


Location: 40.347252, -105.65593

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


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.


Location: 40.350017, -105.653481

Pass Arch Rocks Campsite.


Location: 40.350404, -105.652578

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


Location: 40.350532, -105.651184

Pass between towering 40-foot rocks.


Location: 40.351768, -105.646484

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


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


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


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


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


Location: 40.352249, -105.6446


Location: 40.355717, -105.62693