Our hike to Odessa Lake began from the Bear Lake Trailhead in Glacier Gorge, one of most beautiful areas in the park. Although Odessa can be reached from at least three other trailheads, we chose this particular trail because it included a couple of other attractions such as Bear Lake, Lake Helene and Grace Falls.
Our first destination was located just yards from the parking lot, thus making this area extremely popular. It’s best to arrive here as early as possible to enjoy the serenity and beauty of Bear Lake before the crowds arrive.
Just as the mighty Eastern Hemlocks in the Appalachians Mountains are being destroyed by the hemlock woolly adelgid, the mountain pine beetle is wreaking havoc on pine trees across the Rockies. Although the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park has been hit the hardest, an example of the destruction can be seen at Bear Lake where groves of trees are already dead.
Roughly three miles into the hike you’ll reach an altitude of 10,670 feet, marking the highest point of the hike. As you begin descending, look for a cairn on the left side of the trail - roughly 100 yards from the top. This is your only indication of the short side trail to Lake Helene, which you definitely don’t want to pass up. Although the Park Service doesn’t officially mark this trail - for whatever reason - Lake Helene makes for a pretty awesome destination in and of itself.
From Helene, the trail plunges more than 600 feet over the next mile before reaching Odessa Lake. As you descend, you’ll pass through the ruggedly beautiful Odessa Gorge. Make sure to look across the gorge to see Grace Falls cascading down Notchtop Mountain. From this point you’ll also see your destination long before reaching it.
View from Odessa Lake:
Both my wife and I experienced a first at Odessa. We witnessed a guy jump into the frigid sub-alpine lake, maybe fifty feet away - buck naked – knowing full well that we were there and that we would be able to see him. Recalling the famous Seinfeld episode, Kathy couldn’t help but wonder if he experienced the same thing George Costanza did after his swim in the pool…..
Trail: Odessa Lake
RT Distance: 8.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1820
Max Elevation: 10,670
Lisa Foster's hiking guide is considered by many to be the bible for the Rocky Mountains:
For more information on this trail and all the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, visit our new sister website at Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.
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