Snow Shoe to Emerald Lake



3 miles

Elevation Gain

700 ft

Route Type


Added by Meghan Ryan

Show shoe through trees and mountains, hike across three frozen lakes, and make your way to the beautiful Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Take Bear Lake Road to Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. You should be able to park here during the week, however, the weekend does tend to get busier so you may have to park off the main road. The trailhead has lots of bathrooms and a covered sitting area to strap on your snow shoes. I recommend snow shoes if it’s during the week or after a new snow. Crampons or spikes may work if it’s a busy weekend and the trail is packed down well.

You can take the right to walk around Bear Lake, which is an easy 0.8 mile loop without much elevation change. I love taking this just to warm up my legs and experience Bear Lake from a different view. The trail spits you back out at the trailhead where you take the trail to the right past the map.

I would recommend snapping a picture of the map or having a copy with you as the trail gets a little lost when you first cross the lakes even if the trail is packed down. Make your way to Nymph Lake where you cross to the LEFT by the bench. Don’t go to the right, that trail will not take you up.

After Nymph Lake, head up to Dream Lake. This is more of a steep climb with a few forks to dead end trails, but keep to the left. This is where having a map is helpful because there are some off-shoots that will take you down or out away from the main trail.

Dream Lake is wide open and above the tree line so be prepared for intense wind!! The trek up to Emerald Lake isn’t much farther but it is incredibly windy, especially when a snow storm is coming. I suggest taking pictures quickly then turn around back to the tree line.


  • Wear lots of layers! Sock liners, a coat with a hood, and a buff are super helpful in the wind and cold. Even in early November it will already be below freezing with high winds.
  • If you bring a camera, keep the batteries in your innermost pocket to keep them warm and charged.
  • Poles are so helpful on your way up with the climbs through deep snow. If you decide you don’t need them, strap them to your pack.
  • Don’t forget to drink water!! It’s easy to forget when it’s cold out, but stay hydrated.
  • Pups aren’t allowed in RMNP, so leave your furry friends at home for this trip.
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Easy Parking



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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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