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Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour

Rocky Mountain National Park

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour

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  • The parking area.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • View of the cirque from the parking area.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Trail mileage sign.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Emerald Lake information sign.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • The trail sign almost buried in snow.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • A popular trail.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Backcountry snowboarders coming down the trail.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Nymph Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Touring by Nymph Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • View of Longs Peak through the trees.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • A closer look at Longs Peak shrouded in clouds.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Blue stellar jay.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • View from a lookout above Nymph Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • The lookout above Nymph Lake is a popular place to gather.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • View down the valley.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Snow sprinkled mountains all around.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Trail through the snow.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Walking up through the snow.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Splitboarding up the trail.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • The peaks above Emerald Lake come back into view.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Peaks above Emerald Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Restoration is being done around Dream Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • No campfires allowed.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Looking up from Dream Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Snow gently falling on the climb toward Emerald Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • The peaks barely visible through the snow.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Coming up to Emerald Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • The sun pushing through the snow from behind Hallet Peak.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Hiking up above Emerald Lake to earn some turns.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Switchbacks above Emerald Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Snowboarding back down to Emerald Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Snowboarding back down the open bowl to Emerald Lake.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
  • Snowboarding all the way down the trail.- Emerald Lake Backcountry Tour
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Lots of backcountry options.
Cons: 
Big crowds.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Max slope angle: 
0-15 degrees
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Total Distance: 
3.60 mi (5.79 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 
9,491.00 ft (2,892.86 m)
Vertical descent: 
0.00 ft (0.00 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Emerald Lake may be one of the most popular destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. With breathtaking access to impressive mountain cirques and endless options for moderate to extreme backcountry skiing and snowboarding, it's obvious why.

The tour begins from the parking area for Bear Lake. The lake is only 256 feet to the north, but head in the opposite direction following signs for Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes to gain access to this backcountry playground. The trail climbs to the southwest before curving back to the north, reaching Nymph Lake in just half a mile. Continue by Nymph Lake to its northern edge, climbing west into the glacial furrow and reaching Dream Lake in a little over half a mile. From Dream Lake's eastern tip there may be some tracks leading up and into the woods, granting access to Lake Haiyaha and some skiing down the various steep chutes. The path along the northern edge will lead to Emerald Lake in about 0.7 miles. 

From Emerald Lake, the backcountry options are plentiful. There are several extreme chutes that come off of the mountains to the north and south, while more moderate, open runs can be accessed by heading farther up the gulch toward Hallett Peak.

It's a short, easy ride back down the trail to Dream Lake. Shortly beyond Dream Lake, a path can be taken to the right to enjoy a fun run through a narrow, tree-filled gulch that comes out at Nymph Lake's southern tip. The trail mellows out for a bit, but it can eventually be ridden all the way back down to the parking area. Just watch out for people coming up the trail as it can get quite busy.

Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(21 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(86 within a 30 mile radius)

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