Hike to Cub Lake – Rocky Mountain NP

Estes Park, CO

For our last hike in Rocky Mountain National Park we decided to do a loop of about six miles going first to Cub Lake.  We would then return on the Fern Lake Trail which we would join at a spot called “The Pool,” where the trail crosses the Big Thompson River.

View from the Cub Lake Trail Head

The first part of the trail was through a meadow on a level path.

As the trail began to gain in altitude we went through a section of Aspen Trees.

A brief rest along the trail

There were numerous colorful flowers along the early section of the trail.

We then entered a section of trees that were not so beautiful.  This area was part of a large fire, the Fern Lake Fire, that started with an illegal campfire last October.  The fire flared up in early December and moved swiftly toward Estes Park, causing the evacuation of 1,500 people.   Although we were not near any of them, there are areas of this fire that are still active.

Part of the fire danger in the park comes from the numerous dead pines, killed by Mountain Pine Beetles.  Mountain pine beetles affect pine trees by laying eggs under the bark. The beetles introduce blue stain fungus into the sapwood that prevents the tree from repelling and killing the attacking beetles with tree pitch flow. The fungus also blocks water and nutrient transport within the tree. On the tree exterior, this results in popcorn-shaped masses of resin, called “pitch tubes”, where the beetles have entered.

Pitch tubes on a pine tree

After hiking up for about three miles, we came to Cub Lake.  This small lake is surrounded by forest burned by the recent fire.  The ring in the lake is a large growth of pond lilies.

Lunch with a view

We continued past the lake, following the trail down the mountain through what must have been the scene of some of the most intense areas of the fire.

The fire did not damage any structures, but one of its victims was a short bridge over a small creek.  Fortunately, the creek is small, so it was easy to go around the burned out bridge.

Just past the destroyed bridge was another, smaller bridge that received extensive fire damage but is still functional.

At the bottom of the mountain we crossed over the roaring waters of Big Thompson River at a spot called The Pool.  The river was raging, so there was no pool to be seen.

Along the Big Thompson River we came to a spot where the trail goes through a large rock formation.  OK, its not exactly Utah, but it is rocks!

Returning to the Jeep, we drove back out to Sheep Lakes to see if any Big Horns were visible.  This was our fourth visit to the lakes, and finally we were rewarded with a view of some of these cool animals.  They were feeding next to one of the lakes a bit of a distance from us, but we were able to see them clearly with binoculars, and even managed a picture.

This was our final hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Tomorrow afternoon we”ll take our daughter, Jessica, to the Denver Airport for a return flight back to Pennsylvania.  Then Friday morning we leave here and begin a slow movement to the east.  Our plans are a bit hazy right now but we’ll first head through the plains of Kansas (not much hiking there!) then a turn to the northeast as we head toward Northern New York.  But we intend to make many stops along the way, so the journey will move slowly.

More on that later . . .

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13 Responses to Hike to Cub Lake – Rocky Mountain NP

  1. Nan and John says:

    We had those pine bark beatles at our sticks and bricks in Indiana. They are nasty little pests. Now Colorado has more fires. We all need a good soaking rain about once every 10 days for about 3 months.

  2. Lisa says:

    Isn’t it eerie hiking in a burnt forest? Rocks are a bit different these days, aren’t they? I tell ya, Utah spoils you with amazing rocks!

    Looking forward to seeing what your trip East brings.

  3. LuAnn says:

    Some of those burned sections of forest reminded me of Yellowstone. From what I’ve read, fire is essential to cleaning the forests and creating new growth, but certainly sad to see. Hope you find some interesting places to hike on your trip east.

  4. I remember seeing that fire on the TV. There is no reason for any one to be that careless.

    Love the big horn sheep. They look content and not bothered by y’all’s visit.

    The week flew by. Safe travels for Jessica and the both of you. Give her a hug for me.

  5. Erin says:

    The scenery reminds me of a trip we made to Yellowstone after a big fire in 1985. Enjoy the slow travel East. Are you going to then return west, or are you planning on staying east next year?

  6. We saw the devastation in Yellowstone as well when we were there last spring. But an illegal fire and not one of natural causes …really gets me upset! I know you have enjoyed Jessica’s visit. We will be waiting to hear all about your stops as you head east. Be safe!

  7. Ingrid says:

    So glad you had a great time in RMNP. I know Jessica’s presence made it that much more enjoyable. Perhaps I haven’t been following your journey long enough, but I’m curious as to why the Kansas route and not Minnesota/Michigan? If you’ve never been to Mackinac Island, I would highly recommend. Safe travels.

  8. Ingrid says:

    Ok teacher, I’m sorry I didn’t do my homework before posting that last comment….you’ve already been to Mackinac Island. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      You were correct in asking that if you haven’t been following us for the past year. We sat with the map and looked at all the possible routes east and decided we have never been this way. I am actually excited about our travel to Kansas! I just discovered two rock areas that are suppose to be spectacular near Oakley and Quinter. We’ll see!!! After all, we found North Dakota fun!!! Watch for the post!

  9. Riichard Taylor says:

    I always love your lunch photo; making sure to count the number of feet looking at the view.

  10. Pam says:

    Love the photo of the raging river and bighorn sheep–guess I am more of a river girl than a rock girl. Sad about the fire and pine bark beetle devastation. We managed to avoid most of the big fires out west the last two years, hope we can do the same again this year. Looking forward to seeing your discoveries in the heartland.

  11. Dorothy says:

    The flint hills of Kansas hold some interesting hiking. Near manhattan Kansas is an area of unspoiled prairie and a national park that was a working farm with a 3 story barn and cylindrical brick storm shelter. The trails cover some beautiful countryside.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Dorothy! We’ve already changed our plans about traveling straight through Kansas after I found Monument Rock and Castle Rock with the Badlands. We are now going to stay in Oakley so we can visit these area. I am now researching the area around Manhattan thanks to your comment. I appreciate your sharing!

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