Cub Lake, Cub Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Cub Lake - 4.6 Miles
Cub Lake Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||4.6 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,121' - 8,624' (8,643' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+503' net elevation gain (+643' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Cub Lake is a family-friendly, 3-4 season destination highlighted by the Big Thompson River, large elk herds of Moraine Park, and vibrant autumn colors.
The trail heads south over Big Thompson River and undulates gently along the western fringe of Moraine Park, a vast meadow where glaciers once settled and receded, leaving a broad, level expanse in its place. Bordering ridges - called moraines - were formed by glacial movements that push churned land to its margins. Today Moraine Park is braided by the Big Thompson River and Cub Creek, which give rise to bountiful grasses teeming with life.
Every fall large elk herds congregate in these food-rich meadows for their annual rut, a spectacular ritual where dominant bulls battle for mating rights. Mule deer gather in smaller numbers and are a common sight throughout the year.
Smaller residents such as squirrels, voles, rabbit and hare attract larger predators such as coyote, fox, bobcat and raptors, while bears seek out late summer berries along the meadow's perimeter and stream beds in preparation for their long winter hibernation.
The trail reaches an unmarked split for South Lateral Moraine Trail and bends decisively west up valley (.55 miles : 8,095'). Small-medium sized ponds and thick grass beds dot the valley floor, ideal habitat for seeing elk. Well-spaced ponderosa, spruce, aspen and fir create good wildlife viewing lanes across the lower valley.
The trail moves quickly on a mild grade that steepens past 1.75 miles (8,285') and enters a thick aspen grove. Enjoy this colorful section from the trail, as the stream-laced forest floor is covered in ivy.
The winding trail relaxes on the edge of a marsh at the Cub Creek Backcountry Campsite spur (2.2 miles : 8,603'), and continues west to the northeast corner of Cub Lake (2.3 miles : 8,624').
Cub Lake is ringed by thick timber, limiting access and extensive exploration. Its east shore and outlet area are open but marshy. A social trail drops down to and traces the lake's north shore, while the main trail rises over the lake for .3 miles to the Mill Creek Trail junction (2.6 miles : 8,725'). Consider hiking to this point for additional perspective and better afternoon lighting.
Those seeking a longer outing may continue on to The Pool, Fern Lake or Mill Creek Basin. The Pool - a turbulent pocket below the convergence of Fern Creek, Spruce Creek and Big Thompson - is one mile from this point, and Fern Creek a more challenging 2.1 mile climb. A loop around Moraine Park can be made via the South Lateral Moraine Trail on the return.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N40 21.373 W105 36.949 — Cub Lake Trailhead
- N40 20.985 W105 36.965 — .52 miles : South Lateral Moraine Trail junction
- N40 21.056 W105 37.391 — 1.0 miles : Mild climb up marshy valley
- N40 20.965 W105 37.846 — 1.5 miles : Climb steepens, enter aspens at 1.75 miles
- N40 20.785 W105 38.379 — 2.2 miles : Spur to Cub Creek Backcountry Campsite
- N40 20.768 W105 38.466 — 2.3 miles : Cub Lake
- N40 20.795 W105 38.832 — 2.6 miles : Mill Creek Basin Trail junction
- Aspen and leafy riparian vegetation along the Cub Lake Trail make it exceptionally colorful in the fall.
- Be mindful of elk in Moraine Park and keep a safe, respectful distance.
- The trail is well-maintained, suitable for children and only a moderately difficult snowshoe hike.
- Cub Lake can also be reached from the Hollowell Park Trailhead via the Mill Creek Trail, a longer but lightly traveled alternative route.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Cub Creek Backcountry Campsite
- The Cub Creek Backcountry Campsite is located at 8,620', 2.25 miles from the Cub Lake Trailhead. There are two sites available. Water may be obtained from Cub Creek, or Cub Lake if the stream is dry. Boil or adequately treat all water. The sites are located in a mixed pine forest on the south side of Cub Creek, about 250' below the east end of Cub Lake.
- Wood signs mark the campsite spur, which may also be marked by red arrowheads on trees. Pitch tents as close to the indicated site as possible, safely away from standing dead trees. Boil or adequately treat all water. Stoves only. Fires are prohibited.
The Cub Lake Trailhead is located off of Moraine Park Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
From the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, travel .1 mile west to Bear Lake Road and make a left. Follow Bear Lake Road 1.2 miles to Moraine Park Road and turn right (look for signs for Moraine Park Campground). This road follows the north side of Moraine Park for a half-mile to another junction. At this junction, turn left (south) toward the Fern Lake and Cub Lake Trailheads. Cub Lake Trailhead is about 1.2 miles from this point. Spaces are limited.
Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517-8397