The Pool, Cub Lake, Fern Lake

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.

The Pool is a lovely hike that nearly anyone can do, since it is only 1.6 miles and nearly flat. If you can walk from the parking lot to the grocery store, you can probably do The Pool. The Pool isn't that much to see as a destination, but this hike is a lovely journey as well.

The trail begins in Moraine Park. Turn right from Bear Lake Road across from the Moraine Park visitor center; this road leads to the campground. Before you reach the campground, turn left and head down into the valley. Continue on this road for about 1.5 mile until it dead-ends at a small parking area at the start of the trail.

The trail follows the Big Thompson River, and the moist environment supports a variety of wildflowers right next to the trail.
About a mile up, the trail passes through the Arch Rocks. This matched pair of rocks was presumably formed when a large boulder fell from the cliffs above and split in half upon hitting the bottom.
Above the Arch Rocks, the trail steepens a bit and rises above the river. Another half mile brings you to the bridge over the river and The Pool. There are chipmunks here to greet you and beg or steal food, and still more wildflowers.
At this point, you have some choices. One choice, of course, is to return the way you came, an easy stroll back to the car. If you are brimming with energy and enthusiasm, you can continue another 2.2 miles up a steeper trail past Fern Falls to Fern Lake and see the Little Matterhorn, well worth the trip. If you still have energy, Odessa Lake and a better view are another mile up.
Another interesting and less strenuous option is to return via Cub Lake, adding another 1.6 miles and a bit more elevation gain to your trip. This is a worthwhile option. The trail is well marked from The Pool; it takes you back on the south side of a ridge, passing Cub Lake on the way. Cub Lake is picturesque, with lily pads and a fine backdrop formed by Sprague Mountain and Stones Peak. After the lake, the trail drops back into Moraine Park and curves left through a grassy park back to the road; you may well see a herd of elk here. Once back at the road, you find that your car is a mile back to the left; a chivalrous person can go get the car while the rest of the party waits.

Time going up to The Pool: 1:00. Time to return: :40. Water consumed: 1/2 quart per adult.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks