Emerald Lake

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Moderate
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.
2-3h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
5.1 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.
215 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.
9.3
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.
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Panorama of Emerald Lake snowshoe trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

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 (3,875 m).

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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 0.8 km 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 1.6 km, 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 (4,180 m).

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

Insider Hints for Emerald Lake

  • 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.

Getting to the Emerald 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

    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

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