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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RT Distance 3.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 650 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

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.

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

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.


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