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Sport Fishing In Rocky Mountain National Park

Feb 21st, 2024

There are a million places to fish in Colorado. From brooks and creeks in the national forests around Denver to the barren, high-altitude lakes of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, there’s enough great fishing to last you a lifetime and more. 

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most scenic places to fish in the Colorado Rockies and well worth the trip. The park offers extensive guidance on where and when you can and can’t fish, so figuring out where to go is easy! Get your fishing licenses and any necessary backpacking permits you’d need and head into the snow-capped peaks and meadow-covered valleys for the freshest selection of brown, brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout you could ever find!

10+ high-altitude fishing spots in Rocky Mountains NP 

Odessa, Fern, Spruce & Loomis Lakes

Elevation: 10,040 feet

Hiking distance: 9 miles, out & back 

Elevation gain: 2,000 feet

Fishing type: catch-and-release

These lakes are just two of a collection of closely-gathered lakes, ponds and streams in the center of the park. 

The trail starts either at the end of Fern Lake Road or at Bear Lake (which is the shorter and more accessible route). Bear Lake is closed for fishing, but once the trail crosses over Mill Creek into the Sourdough Campsite area, a wealth of water opens up. Small ponds and lakes dot the crook of the valley between Joe Mills and Flattop Mountains, then a sharp descent to the north deposits you right at the shores of stunning Odessa Lake. There’s a campground here to set up shop, or you can keep trekking down to Fern Lake and camp there; either way, you’ve got a lot to choose from.

That area also has trails that lead to Loomis Lake and Spruce Lake, both of which are fishable aside from the east and southeast sections of Spruce Lake, which are protected areas for the Boreal Toad. Loomis Lake, however, offers the highest elevation and most secluded feel, as it's tucked away at the very end of a small, narrow valley. 

Be aware that a wildfire raged through this area a few years ago and, as a result, felled several trees along the trail to Loomis Lake. It’s not impossible to get through, but it does make for slow going. 

Mills, Jewel, Solitude & Black Lakes

Elevation: 11,602 feet

Hiking distance: 11.5 miles, out & back 

Elevation gain: 2,539 feet

Fishing type: catch-and-keep

This trail of lakes along Glacier Creek is a stunning trek through a glacier-carved valley under the shadow of Longs Peak — the highest peak in the park. This is almost definitely one of the highest fishable elevations in the area, and it’s sure to be a memorable one if you plan your trip accordingly. 

The hike is long but gradual, and if you make the trek you’ll be rewarded with solitude, scattered waterfalls, meadows of wildflowers and gorgeous camping spots right along the creek below the tree-line. 

Mills Lake is the larger of the bunch and first on the trail, followed by crystal-clear Jewel Lake immediately after. Cross the threshold into alpine country and take an optional detour up a grueling slope to Solitude and Shelf Lakes, of which the first is fishable at a whopping 11,400 feet of elevation (the highest we’ve found in the park!). Stick along Glacier Creek past Ribbon Falls and the trail will lead you straight to Black Lake, a picture-perfect circular lake surrounded by an impressive bowl of ancient silver granite

These waters are catch-and-release, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor with the most rewarding fresh trout you’ve ever had in your life!

Roaring River

Elevation: 8,596–11,024 feet

Hiking distance: 0.7–12.5 miles, out & back

Elevation gain: 82–2,513 feet

Fishing type: catch-and-release

Park at either the East or West Alluvial Fan Trailhead to access the closest areas of the Roaring River, right before it deposits into the Fall River heading east to Estes Park. 

If you want a more secluded and scenic experience of this fishable river, park at the Lawn Lake Trail Head and follow the popular trek up the slope and toward Horseshoe Falls. From there, the trail follows Roaring River for 5 miles until it reaches Lawn Lake (a 12.5-mile round-trip in total), which is another great fishing spot. Roaring River officially ends — or begins, depending on which way you’re going — at Crystal Lake another 1.6 miles further.

Stop anywhere along this riverside trail, though, and you’ll be rewarded with great views and plenty of opportunity to fish in the aptly-named river. 

Rocky Mountain National Park on Instagram: "Moving water is beautiful and powerful. Use caution around bodies of moving water, including rivers, creeks, streams, and waterfalls. The water is moving faster and is much colder than you think. Even if water looks shallow, the power of the moving current is deceptive and can cause someone to lose their footing and take an unexpected fall. Be careful near riverbanks, as the vegetation and rocks can be icy, wet and slippery. It's especially important to keep an eye on young children, who are naturally drawn to water. Image Credit: NPS Video - swift moving water is flowing in Glacier Creek, taken May 26, 2023. #RMNP #SwiftWaterAwareness"

2,718 likes, 1 comments - rockynps on June 1, 2023: "Moving water is beautiful and powerful. Use caution around bodies of moving water, including rive..."

Dream Lake

Elevation: 9,906 feet

Hiking distance: 2.0 miles, out & back 

Elevation gain: 459 feet

Fishing type: catch-and-release

This short-but-stunning trail to Dream Lake is perfect for a day or afternoon of fishing. It’s at enough of an elevation that you’re nearly above the treeline, but the short walk and the gentle slope are more of a stroll than a strenuous hike. Once you’re there, enjoy the long shores of this crystal-clear lake and fish to your heart’s content. 

If you live in or near our luxury Denver apartments, then pack your bags and head out to these stunning spots next time you’re craving a fight with a fish. Chances are you’ll walk away with some of the best fishing memories you’ll make!


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Featured photo by Alex Lange on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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