Stop #5: Rocky Mountain National Park
Welcome to Rocky Mountain National Park and specifically, the Fern Lake Trail located in the east central part of the park. This is Allison's husband (Drew) taking the role as your tour guide to help guide you through our day (and maybe yours one day) at RMNP.
When you do decide to visit, or if you visit any other National Park for that matter you may want to consider utilizing a Google search to find a trail that's right for you based on the experiences of others who have already gone. While at RMNP we knew that a waterfall hike was a must, and with over two dozen different falls in the park simply looking at a map wasn't going to provide the nitty gritty details one prefers to have.
A quick Google search of "RMNP waterfall hikes" resulted in too many reviews for me to read, but enough that I was able to pinpoint which trail we should hike based upon our time and skill level.
The park staff also serves as a great resource for this information as well, but don't count on showing up to any of the visitor centers within the park and getting your question answered quickly. The summer months proved to be very busy, and the line to talk to the park rangers was very long. Any planning ahead you can do will save you a lot of time once you get into the park so you can promptly enjoy the outdoors.
Had we been atop some 14'ers I might consider something to provide a little more stability, but then again Allison's friend from Colorado has hiked to the top of 14,000 foot mountains in running shoes. I guess the main point is not to feel pressured to go out and drop $200 bucks on hiking boots if you just plan to do some day hiking. Gym shoes will work just fine.
Our hike was roughly a 5 mile round trip, and considering about 30-45 minutes a mile in this terrain, you're looking at a total hike time of roughly 2.5-3.75 hours. It's definitely long enough that you want to pack along some snacks as you'll be burning some major calories huffing up the trails. I drank through my entire Nalgene (32 oz) just over halfway through the trip. I would definitely recommend a Camel Back or a couple of Nalgenes for a hike of this length. You'll start off a little heavier, but you'll also lighten up because you'll be guzzling water down along the way. The ability to become dehydrated is elevated (that's a joke ha!) here in the Rockies due to the lower air pressure as you get higher in elevation. What this causes is your body to evaporate water more quickly from your skin surface and lung surface as you breathe more often in the less oxygenated environment. If you come from an area that is some what around sea level in elevation, you'll find yourself feeling pretty crummy pretty quick if you don't drink enough water out here.
The same goes if you visit any other time of year as well. In the winter for instance, these same pop up showers/storms can happen and dump some considerable snow in a short amount of time.