By Jeffrey V. Smith
Colorado’s Peak to Peak region is teeming with amazing backcountry spots and the trails that take you there. Each month, MMAC Monthly takes a closer look at some popular places to enjoy the outdoors in a variety of ways and in any season.
Cub Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is a highly-recommended, short and easy hike with big payoff in terms of scenery. The lake, which is covered in lilies, attracts large wildlife and sits in front of stunning peaks, is a photographer’s dream. The area’s beauty is intensified in the fall when elk herds are in abundance and aspen trees are turning color.
The trail heads south over Big Thompson River and follows the western edge of Moraine Park, a vast meadow with both the Big Thompson River and Cub Creek running through. In the autumn, large elk herds gather in the meadows near the trailhead for their annual rut. Mule deer also are a common sight throughout the year.
Squirrels, voles, rabbit and other smaller animals feed in the meadow, which attracts larger predators such as coyote, fox, bobcat and raptor. Bears are also known to search for late-summer berries along the meadow’s perimeter and stream beds.
After about a half mile of crossing an open meadow, the trail turns to run along the valley floor, and past several beaver ponds, for another half mile.
The trail continues up the valley, remaining somewhat flat and going in and out of wooded areas for about another mile. It then begins to climb for a half mile through a thick aspen grove and past a trail to the Cub Lake Backcountry Campground until it emerges at the lake.
The main trail continues about one third mile past the lake to reach the Mill Creek Trail Junction. It is recommended to continue down the trail for better views and afternoon light.
Most of this hike now passes through an area burned by the Fern Lake Fire in 2012. This wildfire, the largest in Rocky Mountain National Park history, burned 3,500 acres in the Cub Lake, lower Forest Canyon and Moraine Park areas. Scenery and wildlife are still abundant, however.
Visit http://www.nps.gov/romo or call RMNP Visitor Information at 970-586-1206 for more information.