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.
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.