• Activities:


  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Handicap Accessible

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
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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

Community Photos

+ Add Photos


Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

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.

10 months ago
10 months ago

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

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

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.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

One of my favorite things to do in CO, definitely a must see in RMNP

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

If I have family in town that has never been to RMNP but isn't necessarily up for a "hike," I take them to Bear Lake. Its a gorgeous spot that has a mostly handicap accessible path and incredible views of Long's Peak. It's such a great place to share the beauty of the park without the strain of hiking somewhere further away.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

One of my all time favorite hikes to do in RMNP. Its a shorter hike, with great views. The trail pretty much all year is easy to access and easy to complete. I highly recommend it!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Hiking to Nymph and Bear Lake was such an awesome experience. Being a first-timer in RNP, I was breathless be holding the stunning and majestic views. Even the drive to the trail head was an event; I stopped when I could to take in the scenery. The trail to Nymph Lake was clearly marked and lead me through fresh-smelling forest. Bear Lake was a bit larger than Nymph.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Jason Hatfield Explorer

Adventure and travel photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. I teach photography workshops and offer private guiding around the west. More at jasonjhatfield.com

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Climb Notchtop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park, Colorado

Park at Bear Lake, and follow the signs north of the lake to Odessa Lake.

61 Saves

Hike to Nymph Lake

Estes Park, Colorado

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.

158 Saves

Hike to Ptarmigan Lake

Estes Park, Colorado

The hike to Ptarmigan Lake has plenty of elevation gain for mountain lovers and views for miles from the Continental Divide.

209 Saves