Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park's Odessa–Fern Lake Trail in Late September
There is fall foliage. And then there's the Odessa–Fern Lake backpacking circuit in Rocky Mountain National Park in late September. Most years, this is the peak of Colorado's crispest, most spectacular, leaf-gasmic yellowness, and on this day, as I finished packing, cinching, and preparing, the weather and the leaves were perfect.
Odessa and Fern Lakes are only two of many snowmelt basins connected by this loop trail, usually accessed at the Bear Lake Trailhead. The trip I chose was 18 miles long, a leisurely weekend walk between alpine trout ponds and diverse terrain.
For three days I witnessed an explosion of yellow that Vincent Van Gogh would have written home about. The days ranged from hot, blinding mountain sun to yak-wool cold in the mornings.
As I hiked, sun-colored aspen medallions rained from above and shone from below, a carpet underfoot and a golden tunnel all around.