The Six Lake Loop is an 18.70mile loop showcasing the best alpine lakes and varied terrain of southeast Rocky Mtn Natl Park in Colorado. The loop is the perfect solo day-trip rookie adventure - start in the morning and be back for lunch, no car shuttle needed. You get into the wild without being far from the car. The route links Cub Lake, Lake Bierstadt, Lake Bear, Lake Helene, Odessa Lake, and Fern Lake.
The terrain and views are dynamic and beautiful; wildgrass meadows, pine-needle laden forest track, boulder foot-scrambles, alpine lakes at 10,000ft, and snow-touched mountain faces.
The trails are regularly marked/mile'd and completely runnable (no 3rd class/hand-scramble required). Really don't even need to power hike. Recommended during summer months (say July-September).
Why I recommend this trail for first time long-runs/adventures/FKT-attempts:
(1) it's a beautiful trail and just wild/long/high enough to be an adventure,
(2) it's short enough/loop'd enough to be unsupported and done solo,
(3) you get out into the wild but cross populated areas thanks to multiple trailheads- so if something goes wrong, you can self extract or get help fairly easily,
(4) it's fully runnable,
(5) there's multiple water sources. Bring your Katadyn filter.
(6) easily scoutable thanks to multiple TH.
(7) cut out Cub Lake if you need a shorter run =)
Go for it!
Recommended direction: Clockwise, such that you hit in order Cub Lake, Lake Bierstadt, Lake Bear, Lake Helene, Odessa Lake, and Fern Lake. Recommended because it's steeper uphill first (or at least it feels steeper), then a single-shot gradual downhill after to the finish.
Trailhead: Fern Lake trailhead, start eastbound towards Cub Lake.
Website description (credit ProTrails.com - not written by me - 5 of 6 lakes but close enough): http://www.protrails.com/trail/333/rocky-mountain-national-park-5-lake-loop-bearheleneodessaferncub
Difficulty: easy-moderate. Runnable grades. Altitude climbs from 6,600ft to 10,000ft. Downhill from Lake Helene to Fern Lake TH is fast and very technical with rocks everywhere. Pretty low risk level in summer months otherwise.
Route Completion guidelines for FKT posterity: Hit all 6 lakes above. Lake counts if you get a great lake view. No need to circle the lake (as in GPS) or touch the lake.
Potential Wildlife: Elk, Deer, Black Bears, Moose.
Route summary: Park at Fern Lake TH, run east through the packed dirt road to Cub Lake TH. Run past Cub Lake laden in lily pads and surrounded by meadows. Start the cranking uphill section heading south. Terrain changes from burnt forest to shaded pine forest. Hit Bierstadt Lake and Bear Lake. Continue to Crank uphill through to Mile 13. The terrain nearly leaves timberline, and the pine trees give way to boulder fields and snow touched alpine mountain views. Find Lake Helene (unmarked! if you hit a steep downhill you went too far). Take in the view of Notchtop Mtn and Flattop Mtn just above Lake Helene. Then take the brakes off and coast downhill. Take a brief offshoot along the river to Lake Odessa, then blast by Lake Fern, and finally the car.