A snow bridge too far
Overview: This is a trip to Odessa Lake high in the Rockies. On the way you will pass the Pool, Fern Falls, and Fern Lake.
Warning: On this hike I encountered some deep snow in early June. The snow was consolidating so I postholed through previously packed snow in several places. There are some moderate traverses on the snow, but nothing I didn't feel comfortable doing with a little caution. There was also a snow bridge to cross at the end, which can be dangerous as there is risk of it collapsing and dumping you into snow melt. Bring a hat, hiking pole with basket, and waterproof jacket in case of rain and snow. The ranger station warned against doing this trail this time of year. To go any further was marked treacherous, supposedly requiring ice axes, crampons and more at this time of the year. Of course I was out hiking in shorts and a t-shirt so I refrained from pushing my luck any further. I imagine this hike would be quite lovely in August, but this will be described in partly snowy conditions in June.
Hike: From the Fern Lake Trailhead or overflow lot, begin hiking the fairly level Fern Lake Trail. In 1.8 miles it climbs only 150 feet or so and you will reach the Pool, where a gushing creek comes down from Spruce Canyon to fill a small rocky canyon wall to wall with water. You will cross this creek on a good sized log bridge and reach a junction with Cub Lake Loop Trail. Continue right and uphill on the Fern Lake Trail.
The rest of the trail is all uphill. After approximately an hour of total hiking, you will reach Fern Falls, which at this time of the year had powerful flow from all the snowmelt and had tossed trees about like matchsticks. Continuing upwards, you will hear another waterfall through the trees, but the trail does not get close enough to get a good view.
Finally after about another half hour, I reached the lower edge of the snow pack. I passed the junction with the Spruce Lake unmaintained trail and climbed and slid my way a few hundred yards over some big drifts until I was at the ranger cabin and Fern Lake. Fern Lake had no ice at this time of year, but all around the lake was some fairly deep snow.
Contour around the lake to your left until you see the sign for Odessa Lake. From here on, it was fairly slow going on the snow, post-holing in spots. After about 20 minutes I reached a trail sign for the junction of the Odessa Spur with the main trail that continues on towards Bear Lake. I turned right and onto the spur trail.
When I finally near Odessa Lake, there was a snow bridge over the creek that flows from Odessa to Fern. In order to reach the edge of the lake I had to cross the bridge. Luckily there were some other people who had already just tested it out and it was proving to still be fairly sturdy this late in the year. Be extremely cautious crossing any snow bridge you find. Odessa lake was partially covered by ice but was serenely beautiful.
Return the way you came back to Fern Lake TH (10.8 mi) or else take the Cub Lake Loop option (13.4 mi) from the Pool for some additional miles.
In summer you could likely continue along the trail to go directly towards Bear Lake but according to the last trail conditions report it was not possible without technical mountaineering gear when I was there.
Water Sources: If you bring a filter, there are many places with some nice fresh snow melt.
Camping: Camping is allowed in certain places near Fern Lake. I'm not sure if camping is allowed near Odessa. You would need a backcountry camping permit from the park service to camp here overnight.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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