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    Emerald Lake Hike

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    5.1 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    213 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Emerald Lake Trail not only features amazing sights of the alpine lake at the trail’s end, but this scenic adventure will guide you past two other shimmering lakes. Travel past three, crystalline alpine lakes through vibrant aspens and towering lodgepole pines. This trail is a great introductory hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park, paved most of the way, the Emerald Lake Hike is ideal for families and novice adventurers alike.

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    Route Description for Emerald Lake Hike

    The Emerald Lake Trail is a charming adventure through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Delivering unmatched vistas of the encompassing snow-dusted craggy peaks and alpine lakes, this hike may be one of the most scenic in the park. Due to its postcard-worthy scenery, the Emerald Lake Trail is highly trafficked. If you are hoping to avoid the crowds that flock to this stunning trail, consider an early morning adventure! Additionally, parking at the trailhead can be an annoyance; the RMNP offers a free shuttle to the Bear Lake Trailhead, which will save you the hassle of finding a spot In the crowded lot. Due to the high altitude of the trails and the exposure at the lakes, we recommend checking the forecast prior to heading out to avoid getting caught in afternoon storms that are so common to the area. Note that a park pass is required to use the trails.

    We know why so many people, tourists, and locals alike, flock to the Emerald Lake Trail. You cannot beat the incredible mountainous scenery and the blue-hued shimmering lakes. With limited elevation gain and little effort, conquerors of the Emerald Lake Trail will be granted views that usually only technical summit treks deliver. This versatile trail can be used year-round and attracts outdoor enthusiasts of all sorts, hike, snowshoe, fish, swim, bird watch and more; the possibilities are endless. Family-friendly and easy to navigate, I mean, what more could you ask for?

    Begin your adventure to Emerald Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead past the Bear Lake Ranger Station. From the trailhead, take the leftmost Nymph Lake Trail. Track along the paved trail through the lodgepole pines and vibrant aspen trees. The first lake you will encounter is Nymph Lake. This is the smallest of the three lakes and is often littered with pond lilies. Notice sights of Longs Peak peeking through the tree breaks in the south. The path will curve you along the east side of the lake before guiding you west, up to Dream Lake.

    As you ascend the trail towards Dream Lake, you will be rewarded with views of Hallett Peak towering above. Cross the footbridges over Tyndall Creek, and the trail will deliver you to Dream Lake. Dream Lake is a narrow, rocky lake that will dumbfound you with its incomparable views. As you trek alongside the lake's north side, you will notice Flattop Mountain, Tyndall Glacier, and a charming waterfall near the path. Take a break on the shoreline before commencing your final ascent to Emerald Lake.

    Continue hiking along the now more primitive path alongside Tyndall Creek. Hike up the rocky gorge and over the ridge to Emerald Lake. Revel in the grandeur of Hallett Peak at the end of the Tyndall Gorge. Dip your tired toes in the crystal-clear waters of Emerald Lake and revel in the impressive alpine scenery. Whether it’s the high altitude or the stunning views, the scenery will take your breath away.

    Admire the craggy spires that dot the mountain top and appreciate the emerald-hued alpine waters before beginning your descent. Then, when you are ready, simply retrace your steps along the path back to the trailhead and ranger station.

    Trail Highlights

    Emerald Lake

    Emerald Lake is a stunning, emerald-hued alpine lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park. This lake is a popular hiking, fishing, and snowshoeing destination near Este Park, Colorado. Emerald Lake sits at 3,082 m in elevation and is flanked by Hallett Peak. The Emerald Lake Hike is a family favorite excursion, the limited elevation and well-maintained path is easily manageable by families and novice hikers alike.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you swim at Emerald Lake?

    Yes, swimming is permitted in Emerald Lake. Note the water is extremely chilly.

    Can you fish in Emerald Lake?

    Yes, fishing is permitted in Emerald Lake if persons over 16 years of age have a legal Colorado fishing licence.

    Do you need a pass to hike the Emerald Lake Hike?

    Yes, to access the Emerald Lake Trail you will need a Rocky Mountain National Park pass.

    Insider Hints for Emerald Lake Hike

    • Due to the popularity of the Emerald Lake Hike, you may want to consider catching the free shuttle to the Bear Lake Trailhead during the peak season.
    • 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 and Lake Haiyaha.
    • We recommend heading out in the early morning to avoid the afternoon crowds.
    • Use microspikes or snowshoes in the winter to help navigate the icy and snowy terrain.
    • If you still have some gas left in the tank after the hike, consider walking the Bear Lake Trail to finish off your adventure.

    Getting to the Emerald Lake Hike Trailhead

    The Emerald Lake Hike departs from the Bear Lake Trailhead at the end of the Bear Lake Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do


    • Pets allowed


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Emerald Lake Hike Elevation Graph

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