Hike to Emerald Lake

Colorado Bear Lake Trailhead

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.

Pack List

  • Comfortable hiking boots
  • Wind-proof jacket with insulating layers below
  • Camera gear and tri-pod for low light shooting
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Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



3.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

650 Feet




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8 months ago

Emerald Lake hike

Such a great hike year round, passing through Dream Lake and continuing to head past there and getting to emerald lake is worth it. I will say, if its windy at Dream Lake though, the gusts at Emerald Lake will likely be double that. So be careful in the Winter.

8 months ago

10 months ago

Its also gorgeous in the winter!

I did this hike on snowshoes in January and it was so amazing. It was my first time snowshoeing so it took me longer than usual, but the lakes were amazing, all frozen over, it was a winter wonderland. There were some people on snowshoes, lots with yaktrax. So for the winter I definitely recommend some sort of traction on your shoes. And lots of snacks, we stopped often to refuel.

10 months ago

10 months ago

One of the best bang-for-your-buck hikes in RMNP.

10 months ago

11 months ago

Great short hike with extraordinary views of several lakes!

This is one of my favorite short hikes in RMNP, just because you get the trail contains make vantage points of various beautiful lakes such as Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. Make sure you try to visit it in off season to avoid the crowds, as the trails can get pretty congested and less places to get a clean shot of the lakes.

11 months ago

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