Spruce Lake, Fern Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Spruce Lake - 9.1 miles

Fern Lake Trailhead

Spruce Lake (GPS: N40 20.531 W105 41.185)

Spruce Lake (GPS: N40 20.531 W105 41.185)

Round-Trip Length: 9.1 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,165' - 9,670' (9,711' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,505' net elevation gain (+1,757' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Spruce Lake - 9.1 Miles Round-Trip

Spruce Lake is located .75 miles from Fern Lake along a rugged, unimproved trail. Hikers should anticipate varied terrain and limited navigational clarity between Fern Lake and Spruce Lake. Spruce Lake's abundant trout, isolation and light use make it an ideal choice for backpackers and solitude-seekers during peak summer months.

A challenging route continues up Spruce Lake's inlet stream to Loomis Lake, one of the least visited destinations accesible from this trailhead:

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Fern Lake Trail rolls gently beside the Big Thompson River through aspen and mixed pine to The Pool - Cub Lake - Fern Lake Trail junction (1.8 miles : 8,365').

Many good fishing spots can be found on this mild stretch. The trail weaves through cottage-size boulders known as Arch Rocks to The Pool, a churning whirlpool below the confluence of Spruce Creek, Fern Creek and Big Thompson River.

The trail climbs methodically above The Pool through dense fir and lodgepole to Fern Falls (2.65 miles : 8,855'), the only notable highlight on this yeoman-like segment.

Grades moderate to the Fern Lake - Spruce Lake Trail split (3.8 miles : 9,485'). Fern Lake is less than .1 miles away, a worthwhile excursion with excellent fishing and views of the Little Matterhorn (11,586'), Knobtop Mountain (12,331'), Gabletop Mountain (11,939'), Castle Rock, and The Gable.

The unimproved Spruce Lake Trail undulates steeply on a sparingly marked course obstructed by deadfall, overgrowth, runoff and boulders. Cairns offer guidance through several short scrambles, but can be difficult to locate. Be patient with route-finding in this cluttered forest.

Level, marshy clearings with views of The Gable, Gabletop Mountain (11,939') and Little Matterhorn (11,586') signal proximity to Spruce Lake. You'll reach a well-marked split for Spruce Lake Backcountry Campsites A-B (4.5 miles : 9,665') and bear left to Spruce Lake (4.55 miles : 9,670').

The marshy east shore of Spruce Lake provides the most complete view the basin, Gabletop Mountain (11,939') and spire-like Castle Rock. Loomis Lake sits in a cirque located just behind the saddle fronting Gabletop Mountain.

To reach Loomis Lake, continue up Spruce Lake's north shore to its inlet stream. Here the trail fades, and you'll simply follow the inlet through a very steep and tangled forest to Loomis Lake. Stay close to and north of the stream until reaching the east edge of a scenic pond (4.75 miles : 10,155'), at which point you'll cross over its outlet and continue upstream to Loomis Lake (5.05 miles : 10,269').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 21.291 W105 37.868 — Fern Lake Trailhead
  • N40 21.040 W105 39.036 — 1.0 mile mark
  • N40 20.966 W105 39.586 — 1.8 miles : The Pool - Cub Lake - Fern Lake Trail split
  • N40 20.842 W105 40.071 — 2.65 miles : Fern Falls
  • N40 20.320 W105 40.577 — 3.75 miles : Spruce Lake Trail junction
  • N40 20.362 W105 40.590 — 3.8 miles : Fern Lake backcountry campsite spur
  • N40 20.594 W105 41.191 — 4.4 miles : Spruce Lake backcountry campsite spur
  • N40 20.531 W105 41.185 — 4.45 miles : Spruce Lake

Worth Noting

  • The unimproved trail to Spruce Lake is steep, rocky and difficult to follow in some areas. Remain navigationally vigilant and patient with route finding.

  • Bears inhabit the Fern, Odessa and Spruce Lake areas. Backpackers should take all recommended precautions.

  • Social trails circle Spruce Lake's marshy southeastern fringe where some of the best vantages of the lake basin and surrounding mountains can be found.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Permits are required for all overnight stays. Fires are not permitted within Rocky Mountain National Park. Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the silver metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red arrowheads on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail.

  • Arch Rock Backcountry Campsite (8,240')

  • There is one individual site located 1.6 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead in a mixed pine and aspen forest. There is no privy or bear storage box available. Water is available from the Big Thompson River.

  • Old Forest Inn Backcountry Campsite (8,405')

  • There are two individual sites located 1.8 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead in a spruce - fir stand about 200 yards above the Pool. A bear storage box is available. Water is available from Fern Creek.

  • Fern Lake Backcountry Campsite (9,530')

  • There is one group site and four individual sites located 3.95 miles and 4.15 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead, respectively. Both are located in a mixed pine forest on the NE and NW sides of Fern Lake, respectively. Each has access to a bear box and privy. Water is available year-round from Fern Lake, its inlet and outlet streams.

  • Spruce Lake Backcountry Campsite (9,670')

  • There is one individual site located 4.5 miles from the Fern Lake Trailhead (6.1 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead) in a thick spruce-fir stand. The trail from Fern Lake to Spruce Lake is not maintained, and horses are not permitted. A bear storage box is available. Water is available from Spruce Lake, its inlet and outlet streams.

Fishing Information

  • A valid Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years of age or older to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary; however, special regulations exist. It's your responsibility to know and obey them. Due to the dynamic nature of fisheries management, fishing regulations could change at anytime. Special closures may be put in place above and beyond what is listed here. Please contact the park before your fishing trip for current information.

  • Spruce Lake is a catch and release only area: Certain waters in the park with restored native fish populations are open year round during daylight hours, except as indicated. Use barbless hooks only. Any and all fish species taken must be immediately returned to the water unharmed. No bait is permitted by any age angler in catch-and-release areas.

  • Method of Capture: Each person shall use only one hand-held rod or line. A 'second rod stamp' is not honored in park waters. Only artificial lures or flies with one (single, double, or treble) hook with a common shank may be used. "Artificial flies or lures" means devices made entirely of, or a combination of, materials such as wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber, designed to attract fish. This does not include: (a) any hand malleable material designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell; (b) any device to which scents or smell attractants have been externally applied; (c) molded plastic devices less than one and one-half inch in length; (d) foods; (e) traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs; and (f) manufactured baits such as imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits. Fly fishers may utilize a two hook system, where one hook is used as an attractant.

  • While in possession of any fishing equipment, bait for fishing (insects, fish eggs, minnows, or other organic matter) or worms is prohibited. Children 12 years of age or under, however, may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing except those designated as catch-and release areas.

  • No bait or worms are allowed in catch-and-release waters.

  • Use of lead sinkers (or other lead fishing materials) is strongly discouraged.

Rules and Regulations

  • Horses are not permitted on the Spruce Lake Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

Spruce Lake is accessed from the Fern Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Fern Lake Trailhead is located 4.1 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Immediately after the entrance station, turn left on Bear Lake Road and travel 2 miles to Moraine Park Road. Turn right on Moraine Park Road and follow signs to the Cub Lake Trailhead. Continue past the Cub Lake Trailhead until it dead-ends at the Fern Lake Trailhead.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"The trail to Spruce is definitely obscure, but it is a great way to escape the crowds on the Fern Lake trail - even on Memorial Day weekend we only saw one other hiker. Tons of Greenback Cutthroats in Spruce Creek. "
 -   -  Date Posted: May 26, 2012


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