Photograph Bear Lake

Bear Lake Trailhead

An iconic lake in Rocky Mountain National Park with year-round photography access.

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 winter's end. While it doesn't have the darkest night skies it can still serve as an excellent location to watch meteors or photograph star trails above Hallet Peak. The area is also frequented by wildlife and you might capture an elk harem, flock of turkeys, or lone fox.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Wide-angle Lens
  • Telephoto Lens for Wildlife
  • Tripod
  • Batteries
  • Memory Card
  • Warm Layers
  • Hiking Shoes or Snowshoes
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Activities Photography
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Handicap Accessible
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Easy approach For Such A Pretty Lake

We finished our hike to Emerald Lake and before returning to the car we decided to quickly check out Bear Lake. It was worth the very fast hike there. You can do a loop but we did not, we simply admired the lake, took a couple pictures and returned to our car. It was raining and the clouds were rolling in, making it particularly different and beautiful.

Always a cool spot

This is a pretty scenic starting point for a lot of hikes in RMNP. Consider arriving early to avoid the crowds.

Beautiful In Winter

This is a wonderful lake to visit during the Winter months if you're wanting to see the snow-covered mountains but don't want to hike to see them. The roads are generally well-maintained even after the snowstorms. After parking in the lot, it's just a few hundred feet to the lake and it's breathtaking after a snowstorm. Great for families with small children or elderly adventurers. If you are more interested in getting a bit of a workout, continue on to Nymph Lake about a half mile up, Dream Lake just a bit further from that and finally Emerald Lake at the top. Hiking boots are fine for Bear Lake but anything further you may want to consider snow shoes to make your trek easier. We rented ours from Estes Park Mountain Shop for $5 a day and it was well worth it.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

More 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.

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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.

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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.

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