Hike to Emerald Lake

Details

Distance

3.5 miles

Elevation Gain

650 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Whitney James

Emerald Lake is easy to access from the Bear Lake Trailhead. If you get there early in the morning, parking is free. This is a great spot for sunrise views of surrounding peaks.

Anyone who has been to Rocky Mountain National Park, or any national park for that matter, knows they get CROWDED. One of the best ways to beat the crowds are to arrive before the sun comes up (or stay after it goes down). That's how we opted to do Emerald Lake in RMNP.

After spending the night near Chasm Lake below Longs Peak, we entered the park via Estes and parked at the entirely empty lot for Bear Creek. This is a very popular snowshoe route in winter and short hike in every other season, and arguably one of the most scenic areas of the entire park.

The hike is only 3.5 miles roundtrip, with 650 feet elevation gain. You'll top out at 10,110, and with this altitude comes high winds at almost any time of year. The trail passes Bear and Dream Lakes, offers stunning views of Longs Peak to the South (if it's a clear day), and can be linked together with several other trails, like the one leading off to Haiyaha Lake. Tyndall Creek runs beautifully next to the trail to Emerald, and is worth some photos in and of itself. Once you reach Emerald, 12,713-foot Hallett Peak commands your attention. If you're as lucky as we were, you'll be the only ones there.

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Reviews

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Explorer

6 months ago

Morning Hike

My wife and I parked at the Bear Lake trailhead an hour and a half before sunrise on a Friday morning, and the lot was already about 20% full. We were the first up to Dream Lake, however, and set up camera equipment and stayed there til an hour after sunrise. We continued on to Emerald Lake afterwards and spent a couple hours up there enjoying the views and documenting our trip. Worth the hike, even with the crowds!

PRO
PRO

Explorer

12 months ago

The hike when you think of RMNP

This trail and the lakes included on it are what people most often think of when they think of RMNP. Make sure to get to the parking lot at Bear Lake at dawn or risk not finding a space. Trail starts off easy and then becomes more moderate until you reach the end.

Explorer

Explorer

almost 4 years ago

Favorite Hike

I don't know what it is about this hike that keeps me coming back, but it is my all time favorite. It's definitely crowded, so getting up there for sunrise is worth it to have some solitude and time to set up your hammocks before the crowds get there.

Explorer

Explorer

almost 4 years ago

6/5

A great morning hike. Get out and enjoy the morning air while avoiding a lot of the crowds that take this popular trek in the afternoon

Trailblazer

about 4 years ago

Great Hike Through a Trio Of Lakes

This is a perfect hike, passing Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. Dream Lake was my favorite but Emerald Lake has a grander view of the rocks and peak. You can scramble up some boulders to the left of the lake and get an amazing view of the hike you just accomplished. It's a great place to relax and eat some lunch. My son and I hung out by the water, skipped rocks and enjoyed the crisp air and beautiful views. The hike is fairly easy, my two year old son was able to do most of it on his own.

536 total saves

4.9/5

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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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