Bear Lake

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Very Easy
Duration
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.
1h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
1.1 km
Elevation
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.
7 m
User Ratings
These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
Overall Rating
This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
10.0
Physical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Technical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Panorama of Bear Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The snowshoe around Bear Lake is another great introduction to winter trails in RMNP. The trail around Bear Lake is short, but definitely has some sweet scenery to check out as you make the loop!

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Route Description for Bear Lake

Anyone on a snowshoe trip should have Avalanche training, we recommend AIARE 2 for all backcountry travellers, and AIARE 1 is the minimum. It is important to note that when travelling through avalanche terrain it is extremely valuable to always have a companion.

Similar to #8 Nymph Lake; Bear Lake is a great introduction to RMNP and snowshoeing in the park. Taking under an hour with a family, it is a perfect snowshoe for people of all ages and abilities. Bear Lake also offers an impressive view of Hallett Peak (3,875 m) in the background.

It is interesting to note that Bear Lake itself was formed in the ice age as a result of a glacier. Just downhill of Bear Lake you can find several moraines - unconsolidated glacial debris. Bear Lake originally earned its name owing to the number of bears found in the area. Today, however, the grizzly bears that once roamed around this area are now extinct in Colorado and there is a dwindling number of Black Bears in the Park too. The number of visitors in this area also deters bears from frequenting the area.

Unfortunately, the ease of snowshoeing or winter hiking around Bear Lake makes it a very popular destination for families with kids that are looking to explore RMNP with limited time in the park. This means that parking is often filled up by 07:30 am on weekends. As a result, it is advisable to either get there early or head there once the crowds start to leave. Of course, remember to account for shorter daylight times during winter months.

Insider Hints for Bear Lake

  • To avoid the crowds, plan to visit Bear Lake during a weekday.
  • If you are on a short schedule but want to check out another area as well as Bear Lake, take the short hike or snowshoe to Nymph Lake!
  • Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park takes you into remote terrain. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and potentially a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones may not work on all trails.
  • Always check the avalanche forecast for the Front Ranges before heading out.

Getting to the Bear Lake Trailhead

From Estes Park, take Highway 36 west and enter RMNP at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Just after the pay station, turn left on Bear Lake Road. Follow the road for about 16.1 km until it ends at the Bear Lake Trailhead.

Route Information

  • When to do

    Late November to Early April

  • Backcountry Campsites

    No camping allowed at Bear Lake

  • Toilets

    Yes, primitive pit toilet

  • Pets allowed

    No

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Loop

Bear Lake Elevation Graph

Weather Forecast

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Bear Lake Reviews

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