Panorama of Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Panorama of Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Emerald Lake Snowshoe Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park
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Sign on Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, ColoradoNymph Lake on Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, ColoradoWinter views on Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, ColoradoHiking on Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, ColoradoSnowy peaks on Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Emerald Lake Snowshoe Trail

Distance: 3.2mi
Elevation: 707ft
Time: 2-3h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.3 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

Snowshoeing to Emerald Lake is a fantastic trip in the backcountry of RMNP. This trail takes you to a beautiful alpine lake nestled in a panoramic mountain cirque at the base of Hallett Peak (12713ft).

Emerald Lake Snowshoe Trail Map

Getting there

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 10.0mi until it ends at the Bear Lake Trailhead.

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About

When to do

Late November to Early April

Backcountry Campsites

Yes- get permits at RMNP Visitors Center

Toilets

Yes, primitive pit toilet

Pets allowed

No

Family friendly

Older Children only

Route Signage

Good

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Out and back


Emerald Lake
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Emerald 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.

The snowshoe to Emerald Lake is a local favorite and comes highly recommended to anybody visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. This trip is just a bit longer than the Dream Lake snowshoe, and actually goes past Dream Lake. There are incredible views from all sections of the trip.

Depending on the amount of recent snowfall, you may not require snowshoes and be able to hike to Emerald Lake.

From the Bear Lake trailhead, turn towards the left and follow the well-marked signs towards Nymph Lake. Once you arrive at Nymph Lake, about a 0.5mi from the trailhead, you will be able to see the top of Hallett Peak. This also marks the direction towards Dream Lake and Emerald Lake.

The trail hugs to the right of Nymph Lake before climbing up in elevation as the trail traverses along the steep mountainside.

After snowshoeing for about a 1.0mi, the trail will split. Follow the sign for Emerald Lake. It will direct you around the northern shore of Dream Lake. Once you reach the end of Dream Lake, you will battle more elevation as the trail climbs up towards Emerald Lake.

Eventually, after a short snowshoe uphill, the trail will dead-end straight into the frozen Emerald Lake. Here, you will be surrounded by the massive mountain cirque and the base of Hallett Peak (13713ft).

To get back to the Bear Lake trailhead, return the way you came by retracing your steps.

Insider Hints

  • Ice skates? But seriously, if you have a pair, throw them in your pack!

  • Annual National Park Pass helps to avoid the lines at the park entrance.

  • This can be quite a busy route – to avoid the crowds go either early or late in the day. Did you know RMNP gets 50% more visitors on weekends than it does on weekdays? Try visiting in the week too!

  • 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.

Comments

Hikeordie 2 years ago

Great trail! The views over Emerald Lake are stunning

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
Sammy L. 2 years ago

A little bit crowded and fair amount of snow on the trail but still easily navigated

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
Lisa B 3 years ago

Emerald Lake in the winter is such a great trail.

8.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
SJ 3 years ago

Snowshoeing to Emerald Lake was such a fantastic way to spend the day!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4 Comments

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