Odessa Lake, Bear Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Odessa Lake - 8.3 miles

Bear Lake Trailhead

Odessa Lake (10,055') in Rocky Mountain National Park

Odessa Lake (10,055') in Rocky Mountain National Park

Round-Trip Length: 8.3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,475' - 10,055' (10,692' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +580' net elevation gain (+1,912' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Odessa Lake - 8.3 Miles Round-Trip

Odessa Lake (10,055') is located 4.15 miles from Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It lies at the head of a steep-walled valley framed by Knobtop Mountain (12,331'), The Little Matterhorn (11,586'), Gabletop Mountain (11,939') and Joe Mills Mountain (11,078').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This moderate hike runs past Lake Helene and drops around the north side of Joe Mills to an access spur for Odessa. Visitors will enjoy subalpine landscapes, several desirable campsites and excellent fishing at Odessa Lake.

The descent from Helene to Odessa can hold snow through early summer and may not be passable without traction devices. Call ahead for conditions before heading out in the winter and shoulder seasons:

The trail rises quickly over Bear Lake through young aspen to the Odessa Lake - Mill Creek Basin split (.45 miles : 9,725'). It climbs steadily to the Flattop Mountain Trail junction (1.0 mile : 9,965'), past which grades steepen on a cobbled path.

The trail negotiates a short but steep-sided scree field to the Sourdough Campsite spur (2.65 miles : 10,585'). It crests past the campsite and drops to several unmarked spurs for Lake Helene (3.0 miles : 10,610').

Lake Helene fills a shallow basin near treeline under Flattop Mountain (12,324'), Ptarmigan Point (12,363') and Notchtop Mountain (12,129'). The trail makes a sharp hairpin turn (north) past Lake Helene, around and down the NW flank of Joe Mills Mountain.

Knobtop Mountain (12,331'), Little Matterhorn (11,586') and the deep valley below come into view as the trail runs down a rugged talus slope to the Odessa Lake access spur (4.0 miles : 10,035').

Follow signs left across the outlet stream to Odessa Lake (4.15 miles : 10,055'). Odessa Lake's east shore is cluttered, but those with time can find social trails leading to more open space on the west shore. Be mindful of changing weather and remember that you must climb 637' back through treeline on the return hike to Bear Lake.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 18.716 W105 38.761 — 0.0 miles : Bear Lake Trailhead
  • N40 19.051 W105 38.638 — .45 miles : Mill Creek Basin junction - begin loop
  • N40 18.987 W105 39.185 — 1.0 miles : Flattop Mountain Trail junction
  • N40 19.357 W105 40.359 — 2.25 miles : Trail levels across scree field
  • N40 19.383 W105 40.732 — 2.65 miles : Sourdough Backcountry campsite spur
  • N40 19.238 W105 41.142 — 3.15 miles : Lake Helene
  • N40 20.024 W105 40.975 — 4.0 miles : Odessa Lake access spur
  • N40 19.901 W105 41.058 — 4.15 miles : Odessa Lake

Worth Noting

  • Snow can make the descent from Lake Helene around the north face of Joe Mills Mountain to Odessa Lake treacherous. Exercise caution when traveling across this steep slope. Poles and traction are recommended under these conditions.
  • Odessa Lake is a popular camping destination with limited space. Plan trips in advance.

Camping and Backpacking Information

The following backcountry campsites are accessible from the Bear Lake Trailhead. Permits are required for all overnight stays. Fires are not permitted within Rocky Mountain National Park. Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the silver metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red arrowheads on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail:

Sourdough Backcountry Campsite (10,628')

  • There is one designated site located 2.65 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead, 60 yards north of the main trail on the south flank of Joe Mills Mountain. The site is located in a level spruce bench. One bear box is available. Water is available from the North Fork of Mill Creek, Lake Helene and Two Rivers Lake.

Odessa Lake Backcountry Campsite (10,065')

  • There are two designated sites located 4.1 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead in a spruce-fir stand east of Odessa Lake on the north side of its outlet stream. The sites are located just over the log bridge crossing of this stream. One bear box is available. Water is available from Odessa Lake and its outlet stream.

Fern Lake Backcountry Campsite (9,530')

  • There's one group site and four individual sites located 5.1 miles and 5.3 miles from Bear Lake Trailhead, respectively. Both are located in a mixed pine forest on the NE and NW sides of Fern Lake, respectively. Each has access to a bear box + privy. Water is available from Fern Lake and its inlet - outlet streams.

Fishing Information

  • A valid Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years + to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary, however special regulations may exist for each location. It's your responsibility to know and obey them. Regulations may change at anytime. Special restrictions may be put in place above and beyond what's listed here. Contact the Park before your trip for current information.

  • Odessa Lake is a catch and release only area: No bait or worms are allowed in catch-and-release waters.

  • Certain waters in the park with restored native fish populations are open year round during daylight hours, except as indicated. Use barbless hooks only. Any and all fish species taken must be immediately returned to the water unharmed.

  • Method of Capture: Each person shall use only one hand-held rod or line. A 'second rod stamp' is not honored in park waters. Only artificial lures or flies with one (single, double, or treble) hook with a common shank may be used. "Artificial flies or lures" means devices made entirely of, or a combination of, materials such as wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber, designed to attract fish.

  • This does not include: (a) any hand malleable material designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell; (b) any device to which scents or smell attractants have been externally applied; (c) molded plastic devices less than 1.5 inches long; (d) foods; (e) traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs; and (f) manufactured baits such as imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits. Fly fishers may utilize a two hook system, where one hook is used as an attractant.

  • While in possession of any fishing equipment, bait for fishing (insects, fish eggs, minnows, or other organic matter) or worms is prohibited. Children 12 years of age or under, however, may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing except those designated as catch-and release areas.

  • Use of lead sinkers (or other lead fishing materials) is strongly discouraged.

Rules and Regulations

  • A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Horses are permitted on the Helene - Odessa Trail, but not on the Odessa Lake access spur. Hitchracks are available along the main trail at the spur junction.

Directions to Trailhead

Bear Lake Trailhead is located 8.9 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Just past the Beaver Meadows entrance station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. The Bear Lake Trailhead is located at the end of this road. Additional parking and alternative access can be found at Glacier Gorge Trailhead. This will add an additional 1 mile roundtrip to the hike.

When lots are full you must use the shuttle.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Emergency Dispatch:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"The descent from Helene around Joe Mills was really slick. You must be careful. While this is always a funky section with snow, it was worse than usual because of the very cold weather we had on Friday, which turned softer snow into an icy hard pack. I had yak tracks and still couldn't kick into the snow to make a foot hold. There are some tracks that take a lower line, so find those first if you can (I didn't see them until I was already half way across the worst of it). Be really careful here - there are some points where if you fall, it's a long, long way down. Snow cleared as you neared the Odessa spur. The spur trail is snow covered but firm, flat and easy to walk on - just make sure you're away from the creek, which is running right beside you. If not prepared for the snow, you can start at Fern Lake and come up that way. "
Ray Keller  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: June 25, 2017
"6/26/16 was not able to reach Odessa from Helene, the trail along a steep slope was entirely covered in a large snow bank extending from the ground to dozens of feet above the trail. From the tracks it seemed that a few people had managed to cross this snow, but the path was incredibly narrow and the snow was icy and slippery. It was also visible that someone had fallen attempting this as there was a line through the snow leading straight to the bottom about halfway across. "
Stephen  -  Evergreen, co  -  Date Posted: June 26, 2016


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