Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
620.00 ft (188.98 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
3.60 mi (5.79 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

While Rocky Mountain National Park is privy to one of the most beautiful and varied color pallets in Colorado in the fall, it's a patchwork of breathtaking geology year-round, and Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes allow privileged views of both. Nestled in the Tyndall Gorge, its namesake glacier is one of five active glaciers in the park, and it has carved magnificent 360-degree views from each of the three lakes.

This hike, the most popular in the entire national park, sets off on a well maintained, gently graded trail from Bear Lake Trailhead to first access Nymph Lake. A short .5-mile trek earns the south shore of the lake, with a short walk to the north shore granting majestic views of 12,713-foot Hallet Peak and the iconic Long's Peak at 14,259 feet. From the north shore the trail continues on a bit more moderately for just over a half mile before veering to the right near Lake Haiyaha and crossing the bridge over Dream Lake's outlet.

Just over a quarter mile of exposed shoreline on Dream Lake provides excellent fishing for native greenback cutthroat trout. Note that only lures and flies are allowed, and simple ant patterns tend to work well.

For the intrepid hikers, the final 1.8 miles that remain to Emerald Lake are steep, beautiful, and climb alongside the outlet waters. True to its name, Emerald Lake is jewel-like in tone and affords a majestic view of the Tyndall Glacier, perched in the saddle between Hallet Peak and 12,324-foot Flattop Mountain.

Note: During the height of tourist season, you'll likely need to utilizing the free park shuttle to the trailhead, as the parking lot typically fills by 7:30 a.m. It is extremely important not to feed, approach, or disturb wildlife within the park. In particular, ground squirrels and chipmunks are common around Dream and Emerald Lake and despite their curiosity and the actions of other tourists, they should be left to enjoy their natural diet and feeding behavior.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Alpine lake wonderland. Dramatic granite mountains. Kid-friendly.

Cons

Extremely crowded during summer. Limited parking.

Trailhead Elevation

9,480.00 ft (2,889.50 m)

Features

Rock climbing
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

08/28/2019
Go early as possible in the AM and the crowds aren't too bad.
But even the crowds are worth it for the spectacular views of the lakes. Emerald Lake is the best.
02/24/2019
The trail is well maintained in the winter and access to all three lakes via the trail head at Bear Lake is possible. If you plan on taking any of the side trails be prepared with micro-spikes at a minimum, snowshoes are highly recommended. Without snowshoes expect to spend most of the hike on the side trails postholing your way through the ankle to knee deep snow.
11/04/2016
Dream lake in November; not yet frozen over
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