The trailhead for this hike is located at the end of Bear Lake Road, which is one of the more popular areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. This parking lot tends to fill up early in the morning. However, the park offers a free shuttle from an overflow parking lot on Bear Lake Road. This hike can be done as an out-and-back or one-way trek, and you can take the shuttle from the Fern Lake Trailhead or Bear Lake shuttle stop. Starting from Bear Lake is a good idea because the elevation gain is much lower on this route. The name of this hike is a bit of a misnomer; the trail actually continues on for approximately 4 miles from Fern Lake in order to get back to the shuttle stop.
When starting from Bear Lake, there will be multiple other trail offshoots, so continue to follow signs toward Odessa Lake or Fern Lake in order to stay on the proper trail. While hiking, you will walk past five different lakes as well as Fern Falls and a couple other seasonal waterfalls. Be prepared for remaining snow on certain sections of the trail during the summer. There are also a few backcountry campsites at different points throughout the trail, most notably near Odessa and Fern Lake.
This is a beautiful trail that traverses through forests and open areas with diverse views. Most of the elevation gain is in the first half of the hike, so once you reach Lake Helene a little after 3 miles into the trek you will start descending. It's possible to miss Lake Helene. Keep your eyes open for a short, unmarked side trail, which you should be sure to take. The lake offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Continuing on, you'll eventually pass by Odessa Lake, but a little further ahead, there will be a sign pointing you to a side trail providing access to the lake. Although backtracking is necessary, Odessa Lake, with its blue water surrounded by aspens and mountains, is not to be missed. After returning to the main trail, continue on toward Fern Lake and the rest of the hike, which includes Fern Falls and the confluence of Fern Creek and Big Thompson River. These combine to form the Pool, which is a popular area for picnics and fishing.