• A translucent blanket of clouds hangs over the snowy continental divide above Bear Lake Road. NPS Photo by VIP Olsen

    Rocky Mountain

    National Park Colorado

Thunderstorm Causes Trail Damage in the Park

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Date: July 19, 2013
Contact: Karen Brna, 970-586-1201

A Thursday afternoon thunderstorm resulted in localized damage to the lower Fern Lake Trail, located on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The storm, which developed along the Continental Divide during mid-day intensified as it moved east, resulting in heavy rain, hail, lightning, and localized flooding.

At approximately 1:08 pm, a hiker reported a large debris flow that had covered the Fern Lake Trail about one mile west of the trailhead near a feature called Arch Rocks. The debris flow originated on the slope to the north of the trail in an area burned over by the 2012 Fern Lake Fire. The debris, consisting primarily of mud, rocks and trees, covered over 150 yards of trail and in places is estimated to be four feet deep. Hikers and horseback riders in the area at the time were able to self-evacuate to the trailhead or were re-routed out of the area via the Cub Lake Trail.The two mile section of the Lower Fern Lake Trail remains closed from the trailhead to The Pool until a damage assessment is complete. Backcountry users can still access the Fern Lake trail above The Pool via the Cub Lake route. Efforts are underway to contact overnight campers in the area regarding the trail closure.

The condition of the 65 year-old woman who was struck by lightning yesterday afternoon while hiking the Ute Trail is still unknown. She was transported from the park by ambulance and later transferred from the Estes Park Medical Center to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado.

The National Weather Service is again forecasting showers and thunderstorms today throughout areas of northern Colorado including Rocky Mountain National Park.  A Flash Flood Watch is in effect this afternoon and evening. Park users are reminded of the hazards that may accompany mountain storms. Heavy rain, hail, strong winds, flooding and severe lighting can be expected. Caution should be taken when travelling in burn areas that have been affected by recent wildfires, including the Fern Lake Fire. For updates on weather and Hazardous Weather Outlooks, park users are encouraged to monitor information from the National Weather Service.  

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