Cub Lake Loop | Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO | 07/25/20 | 5.65 miles | 655′ gain
Something about 2020 and plans just didn’t go together. Tori and I planned on hiking Bear Lake to Fern Lake in Rocky, but by 6am the Bear Lake parking lot was already full. We’d brought two cars since we were planning on a point-to-point hike, but that was now out of the question. What could we do instead?
We’d already parked Tori’s car at the Fern Lake Trailhead so we decided to head back that way until we could decide what to do. On our way we passed the Cub Lake Trailhead. Neither of us had ever hiked there and I’d heard of an easy loop that included Cub Lake and part of the Fern Lake Trail. The weather was looking pretty doomy and gloomy so a short hike seemed better for today anyways. (We quickly got over any bitterness about changed plans.)
We’d wasted a lot of time driving around but were on the Cub Lake Trail by 6:30. The trail starts in Moraine Park, a beautiful wet meadow. We hiked around the outskirts of the meadow, contouring around rocky bluffs.
When we reached the south side of Moraine Park, the trail turned west and followed an unnamed stream – Cub Lake’s outlet – all the way to Cub Lake. We gradually hiked upwards past beaver ponds and wetlands. This was a very pleasant area for a hike in what seems to be an underrated part of Rocky.
As we neared Cub Lake, the trail left the meadow and entered the forest. It was much steeper here and we climbed about 250′ to the lake.
The trail itself doesn’t go down to the lake so we followed social trails over downed trees to get to the edge. The forest around Cub Lake had been burned in a past forest fire, but the lake was covered in bright green lily pads. We continued on the trail past the lake, up one more short slope before descending into Forest Canyon.
It was a relatively steep but quick descent down into the canyon. We crossed a small unnamed creek and soon reached the Big Thompson River at the bottom of the canyon.
We were now on the Fern Lake Trail and followed it along the Big Thompson River all the way to the Fern Lake Trailhead. There were a few points of interest along the way like The Pool and Arch Rocks, but otherwise we had pretty typical forest and river scenery along the gradual trail.
We reached Tori’s car at the Fern Lake Trailhead and drove it the 3/4 mile to my car at the Cub Lake Trailhead. We could easily have just walked the road, creating a full loop, but dang it we brought two cars so we were going to use them! Even though we weren’t able to do the hike we originally intended, we found a great alternative and I couldn’t be happier with our Plan B.