August, 2019 again found me in Colorado to visit my son. Of course, I was going hiking, even if I would be hiking alone. I decided on the Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park and it turned out to be a perfect hike for me. I am familiar with the Emerald Lake area, as I have been there a couple of times before. There are many trails in this area. Last year we hiked to Sky Pond, which you can access near the same area. The parking lot is large but fills up quickly so get there early or take the shuttle bus for free. Click for more information on Rocky Mountain National Park.
Bear Lake Trailhead
Emerald Lake Trail is accessed from the Bear Lake Trailhead which is located about a half hour from Estes Park. It is easy to locate by following highway 36, then taking Bear Lake Road to the end. For more information on Bear Lake Trailhead you can click here.
Emerald Lake Trail
Emerald Lake Trail is truly a perfect hike. Not just for scenery, but also a great place to acclimate to hiking at the mountains if you are planning a few days there. It’s long enough to get a good taste of the mountains yet short enough that you don’t wear yourself out on a first hike! This hike is a heavily trafficked 3.5 mile out and back trail. You will pass by two other lakes, Nymph and Dream and also have beautiful views of Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain and Long’s Peak.
I was excited to start this hike. It was a beautiful day and just perfect weather for a hike. The trail to Nymph lake was relatively easy with a steady climb up through the forrest. You can view Long’s Peak in the distance through the trees. Nymph Lake is only 0.5 miles from the trail head. It is a small lake with lily pads floating on top. Very pretty. If you follow the path around the lake, you will be able to see Hallett Peak, reflecting in the water of Nymph Lake. I thought this was a spectacular view.
After Nymph Lake, the trail takes a rather steep incline and continues to Dream Lake which is a subalpine lake and a little over a mile from the trail head. The dirt trail passes is easy to hike on and it is a pretty area. You can see glimpses of Mountains and there are wildflowers scattered along the trail. At one point you will pass a small water fall. You will see a sign pointing the way to dream lake and pass a couple of small ponds, then suddenly, Dream Lake is in front of you.
Dream Lake doesn’t look that big but goes back a ways. The water is so clear you can see fish swimming around! There were a few people fishing here and it was a great place to stop and relax. Even though the trail was busy, it was not hard to find a place to sit and feel a bit secluded.
Emerald Lake is about 1.7 miles from the trailhead. Follow the trail along the lake and then once again trek upwards. You will climb plenty of steps. They are not steep, but they are steps none the less! You will pass by another waterfall on your left and see the jagged mountain peaks of Flattop Mountain through the forest. As the path continues up, you will see Hallet Peak getting closer. There will be a big rock and then you will be at Emerald Lake.
Emerald Lake is much larger than the other two lakes and is cradled by Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain. The lake has a bit of a green hue, thus giving it its name.
Back Down the Trail
After spending a good bit of time sitting on the huge rock at Emerald Lake, I headed back down. As it seems to be in the mountains, the way back passes by quickly. I really had enjoyed this trail and enjoyed my solo hike. With as many people on the trail as there was that day, I didn’t feel I was out hiking alone. Hikers are friendly and I met a lot of great people and received some good tips on where I should hike the next day!
For more of my Colorado hikes and road trips follow the links below.
I used Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park guide book to determine which hike I wanted to do. This book covers a lot about each trail listed along with difficulty level, distance, and location. In regards to location, it is also broken down by area and includes maps of each trail. It also has a lot of colored pictures which I like.
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