Hike to Emerald Lake

3.5 miles 650 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

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.

Read More

Tags

Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

almost 4 years ago

Good spot.

This is a really scenic area. Still definitely a popular spot, but the further away you get from bear lake, the smaller the crowds will be.

almost 4 years ago

Beautiful in Winter!

Just did this hike a few days ago! Absolutely beautiful to do in the Winter. Passing through Nymph, Dream and Emerald lakes while they're frozen is unreal. Great advice on getting there early or staying late, the crowds definitely thin out around then. Also some great photo ops throughout the hike!

Awesome For Snowshoeing

The furthest lake in the stretch of small lakes and also the highest, Emerald was absolutely with the hike. It was further apart from the other lakes and obviously less traveled. You can make it without snow shoes but I wouldn't recommend it as it gets nearly thigh deep in some areas without. When you get to the lake, you can sit along the shore and gaze off at the deep basin of snow ahead. This lake is also thick enough to walk across and while we were there, skiers were climbing up the far hills and skiing down. I probably wouldn't recommend it, however, as one of the couples we were sitting with said that they had witnessed an avalanche at that location before.

Stay Nearby

Larimer County, Colorado

Glacier Basin Campground

Overview Glacier Basin Campground (8,500 feet) is adjacent to Estes Park in the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. From lush valleys to craggy peaks with elevations reaching ov...

Estes Park, Colorado

Moraine Park Campground

Overview Moraine Park Campground (8,160 feet) is located in Colorado's awe-inspiring Rocky Mountain National Park, near the Beaver Meadows Entrance on Highway 36. It is situated on the north side o...

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park Koa

Allenspark, Colorado

Olive Ridge

Overview The Olive Ridge Campground is located within the Roosevelt National Forest, situated near the southeastern corner of Rocky Mountain National Park at an elevation of 8,350 feet.Recreation O...

Nearby Adventures

  • Climb Notchtop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Park at Bear Lake, and follow the signs north of the lake to Odessa Lake. However, do NOT go all the way to Odessa Lake; after about 3 miles, when Notchtop is in full view, the trail begins to descend to Odessa Lake. Find an unmarked spur trail to...

    3.5 miles 1550 ft gain

  • Hike to Nymph Lake

    While not as popular as Dream Lake, Nymph Lake is just as beautiful. The hike to Nymph Lake is an easy hike just over 1 mile. You start from the Bear Lake Trail head and can go further on to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake if you want to. Both Dream a...

    1.1 miles 245 ft gain

  • Hike to Ptarmigan Lake

    The hike to Ptarmigan Lake has plenty of elevation gain for mountain lovers and views for miles from the Continental Divide. If you want to reach this spot for sunrise you'll need a very early start in the morning, but that also means you won't ha...

    11.8 miles 3850 ft gain

  • Photograph Bear Lake

    Bear Lake is a popular tourist destination in Rocky Mountain NP, but when the sun is low in the sky or the stars are out you'll find the big crowd are gone. The lake is beautiful at sunrise and sunset but especially photogenic in the fall or at wi...

  • Inspire Your Fall Aspen Trip!

    Autumn days in Aspen are filled with sunshine and nights with crisp cool air. Watch the mountains and valleys turn gold with the changing Aspen trees. Take in the scenery while enjoying scenic drives, hiking through forests, road biking, and exploring our IMBA Gold Level Ride Center recognized mountain bike trails. 




    Learn More