Bear Lake Trail
The Bear Lake Trail is a heavily trafficked hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Crowds flock to this trail for its accessibility, family-friendliness, and incredibly scenic vistas. Travel along the shoreline and hike through vibrant aspens, lodgepole pines, spruce, and fir trees. Additionally, you will be rewarded with dumbfounding sights of the snow-capped craggy peaks that hem the alpine lake. This adventure is like no other, be sure to add it to your Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) itinerary.
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Route Description for Bear Lake Trail
There is no doubt in our minds as to why the Bear Lake Trail is so popular. This stunning, year-round, alpine adventure is incomparable. If you do venture this trail in the late autumn and winter, be sure to wear snowshoes or microspikes to ease the navigation of the icy, snowy terrain. Furthermore, due to its high altitude, the lake sees inclement weather in the summer months alike. Check the weather forecast before your adventure to mitigate the chances of getting caught in an afternoon storm. Note the summer is the most popular season for this trail; consider an early morning hike to beat the crowds! The Rocky Mountain National Park does charge an entrance fee, but this includes using the free shuttle if you want to avoid the annoyance of parking at the busy trailhead.
Delivering views that only technical summit hikes provide, the accessibility and versatility of this path are unmatched. Whether you are a summer, winter, spring or fall adventurer, the Bear Lake Trail is always a great option. Hike it in the summer months or snowshoe through the snow-cloaked route; this excursion guarantees breathtaking views. This path is one of our favorite adventures, especially in the fall when the aspens are at their peak vibrance; the views are simply unparalleled. Not to mention the Bear Lake Trail is family-friendly, wheelchair, and stroller accessible. It is worth noting there are a few steep sections, but the route is well-maintained and easy to navigate, so it is manageable by most! So what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
Embark on your adventure around Bear Lake from the trailhead beyond the Bear Lake Ranger Station. You can complete this loop from either direction, but we prefer trekking counterclockwise on this one. Shortly after passing the Ranger Station, you will encounter a fork in the road, veer right, and you will be diverted onto the Bear Lake Trail. Hike along the stunning shoreline, and from the east side of the lake, you will be rewarded with amazing views of Hallett Peak. Eventually, you will meet an intersection with the Bierstadt Trail, keep left on the Bear Lake route. Hike through the aspens and notice the lodgepole pines that have fallen victim to the beetle infestation.
Follow the forested path and revel in the sights of the crystalline alpine lake. The path will curve you west, to the north side of the lake. From here, you should be able to see the prominent summit of Longs Peak on a clear day. Hike along the trail, and it will guide you southeast. Travel along the shoreline and let the fresh alpine air fill your lungs. At the next junction, ignore the Nymph Lake Trail and continue following the Bear Lake Trail. Soon you will be delivered back to trailhead and Rangers Station, which mark the end of your adventure.
Bear Lake is a popular, family-friendly adventure in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The perimeter hike is well maintained and accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Bear Lake is a stunning, blue-hued alpine lake, hemmed by Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide. Sitting at 9450ft in elevation, Bear Lake was formed in the Ice Age by a glacier. Now, there are several moraines located downhill from the lake.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time of year to hike the Bear Lake Trail?
The best time to hike the Bear Lake Trail depends on the activities you wish to do. We love hiking in the autumn (September/October), because the crowds have thinned, and the aspen trees are turning!
Is the Bear Lake Hike difficult?
The Bear Lake Trail is well-maintained and wheelchair/stroller accessible, but it is worth noting there are a few steep sections.
When is the best time of day to hike the Bear Lake Trail?
The best time to hike the Bear Lake Trail is in the early morning. If you arrive between 7-8am, you will beat the afternoon crowds.
Can you swim in Bear Lake?
No, swimming is strictly prohibited in Bear Lake.
Insider Hints for Bear Lake Trail
- If you are venturing this trail in the winter, trade your hiking boots for snowshoes to make the trek easier.
- This is one of the most popular nature trails in the park, so make sure to arrive early to beat the crowds and secure a parking spot.
- If you are seeking a longer lakeside journey, consider hiking the Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes Hike, this adventure will take you around five different lakes, including Bear Lake.
- Pick up a $2USD nature guide at the Bear Lake trailhead which points out the numbered bear paws around the lake.
- Due to the popularity of the trail, you may want to consider catching the free shuttle to the Bear Lake Trailhead during the peak season.
Getting to the Bear Lake Trail Trailhead
Find the Bear Lake Trail off the Bear Lake Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Bear Lake Trail Elevation Graph
Weather ForecastCheck Area Weather
Bear Lake Trail Reviews
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