All the information you need for the Emerald Lake Trail Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park
By the end of this article, you will be able to feel confident in hiking to Emerald Lake Trail.
Start your adventure that will include awe-inspiring views of the Glacier Gorge trail system of Rocky Mountain National Park. You will transported to breathtaking scenery that includes beautiful mountains with snow-capped peaks, colorful wildflowers, and maybe even some wildlife!
INCLUDED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Highlights and Information on the Emerald Lake Hike
Driving Directions to the starting point at Bear Lake Trailhead from Estes Park
TO THE POINT Clear and Concise Summary Directions
2D Map showing directions to the Trailhead (start of hike)
STEP-BY-STEP DETAILED Directions for the “Map-ically Challenged!”
3D Map showing topographical detail of the trail
Highlights and Information Before You Start
National Parks Pass
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Many people hike the Emerald Lake Trail Hike near Estes Park. You can drive to the Bear Lake Trailhead and then hike to the Emerald Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It can get very busy in this popular national park! You may choose to ride the shuttle bus service available at Rocky Mountain National Park during the operating months May through October. Please check the National Park Service Website Here in order to see dates, times, and a map of the shuttle bus service within RMNP!
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Updated Trail Conditions
Emerald Lake trail conditions can be found here. Updated Trail Conditions can be found by clicking here.
Colorado Road Conditions
Dream Lake weather can be fickle, (especially Emerald Lake in the Colorado Winter!) and its always important to look at the road conditions. Road Conditions in Colorado can be found by clicking here.
Depending on where you are going, and when, and who is going with you, you will need to pack certain gear. Take time before to find, purchase, and pack the gear you need. Consider our 17 things you need to pack, but didn’t think of, as well as our list of essentials for a day hike. You can even check out our guide to gifts for hikers and adventurers to give you ideas regarding items that you may need (or want!) to make your vacation even better!
Gear is really important, and give yourself the time to think, research, and plan for the things that you will most need and want during your vacation. Frankly, I even make lists for food and clothing. (But like I said, I’m a planner, people.)
Highlights and Quick Reference Guide
- Moderately easy
- 3.6 miles round trip
- About 3 hours hiking time
- 9,475 – 10,800 bring water!)
- No fees, except the park entrance fees
- Beautiful lake views, and an incredible hike
- Kids could do this!
- Doggies are not allowed (but you may see Equestrians)
To the Point Summary Directions
These directions to hike to Emerald Lake are clear and concise, without extra commentary! Use these directions, and if you ever feel confused, always refer to the map and directions below that are more detailed and include even more specific directions.
Miles and Directions
0.0 Start at Bear Lake Trailhead from Estes Park
.05 Pass Nymph Lake on the left
1.0 Trail Branches Left to Lake Haiyaha – Do not take it
1.1 Reach Dream Lake! Celebrate!
1.8 Reach Emerald Lake! Celebrate Again!
3.6 Return back
Step by Step DETAILED Directions
Your days of feeling “Map-ically Challenged” are over! (Trademark on that pending!) These maps (both simple and detailed), along with exceptionally clear instructions, are all provided for you in this post!
Please note: The 3D maps in this post, and below are NOT FACING NORTH (on purpose!). Repeat: These maps do NOT face North. These maps are shown specifically for those of us who are “map-ically challenged” and need to visually see which way we are hiking. Please refer to the compass at the bottom right of the map below to show where NORTH actually is!
CLICK ON THE MAP BELOW, OR CLICK HERE, AND YOU WILL LINK TO THIS EXACT GOOGLE MAP. You can zoom in on it and take as many screenshots as you would like! If you bring up the map in Google, if you use your mouse and hit CONTROL, then you can MOVE the map to the direction in which you are ACTUALLY HEADED!!!! (Amazing!)
When you click on this, and open the map, you can then click on the link below the blue box on the left and have these directions sent DIRECTLY TO YOUR PHONE!
You can then screenshot those images, so that you can see these directions, and maps, even if you do not have wi-fi as you are hiking!
Finally – look look LOOK! AT THE BOTTOM RIGHT of the map. See that little yellow guy? Click on him when you open up the map on your phone. You can see ACTUAL PICTURES on the blue dots that people have taken. This is a GREAT resource to have. If you look at your map before you go, you can screenshot what the intersections in the trail look like to help you navigate your way, and not get lost!
Super Clear Directions!
- Start early, grab your coffee at Kind Coffee in Estes Park, Colorado and head out!
- Travel on US 36 highway to Bear Lake Road.
- Make a left onto Bear Lake Road
- Travel to the Bear Lake Trailhead (Travel 8 miles on Bear Lake Road from US 36). Park in the Bear Lake Trailhead parking lot. Jump out of your car, stretch (always stretch first haha!) and check the signs. You really should be able to only hike one way for the Bear Lake Trail Loop Hike, and the signs are clearly marked. When you get to the actual Bear Lake Hike trailhead, you will see the huge sign for the Bear Lake Hike to your right. (My advice? Go ahead – Take the Bear Lake Trail Loop! Walk around in a loop around the Lake and take lots of pics to make family and friends jealous!)
- If you are going to Dream Lake, then right when you see the Bear Lake signs coming from the Parking Lot, you will see a sign clearly marked to Dream Lake (to the left). Take it.
- Pass Nymph Lake
- The trail will branch to the left to Lake Haiyaha do not take it!
- Keep straight and reach Dream Lake on the Dream-Emerald Trail.
- Keep straight and reach Emerald Lake!
- Turn around and return home!
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More Information and Resources
Final Thoughts on Emerald Lake Hike
The Emerald Lake Trail at Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular hikes! The reason? This hike actually incorporates three lakes! It includes Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake – and its a lot of bang for your hiking buck! The Emerald Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best uses of your time and it will create memories for a lifetime. The best time to go to this place, or really any place in RMNP is early, early, early, (no seriously, even earlier than that) in the morning.
Tip: Consider including the Bear Lake Hike Loop on the Bear Lake trailhead with this hike! There are 32 NUMBERED POSTS around the lake that show points of interest and information. You can get a booklet from a dispenser at the beginning of the lake (East Side). Kids will love this. It is the easiest treasure hunt they will ever do, and (bonus!) they will be learning!
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can now add a walk to Alberta Falls with your kiddos, starting right at the entrance to the Bear Lake loop. It’s an easy 1.8 total mile hike, and again, well worth it.
When you are ready to finally have your National Park Family Vacation!
Hopefully, you already have all of your reservations, your tickets, and gear planned out! A last minute checklist is so important to make sure that nothing gets left behind. Here are a few extra hacks and tips for your road trip and family vacation! Want even MORE free options? Simple! Just subscribe at the bottom of this post to be part of the Van Adieu Crew and get access to the FREE Van Adieu Vault filled with itineraries, checklists, roadmaps and more!
- Confirm all reservations, tickets, and any events you may be attending (Best suggestion: Print copies of everything and have it with you.)
- Confirm the route you are going. (Best suggestion: Purchase an atlas, as in, an actual real map – on honest to goodness old fashioned paper.)
- Check all gear. (Best suggestion: Discuss this gear with everyone. Is there something that someone would like to have? For example, is someone interested in doing geocaching on the trip? Maybe a waterproof notebook and waterproof pen would be fun for them!)
- Make sure to look at our Road Trip Checklist!
- Make a shopping list, and purchase all possible groceries ahead of time. (Best suggestion: Figure out not only each meal, but also prepare snacks in individually wrapped packages to make the trip more fun and super easy!) Or try to find the best Farmer’s Market where you are going – its easy!
- Consider what you will be doing during the road trip. We have some great road trip activities for kids, and also some fantastic productive and unique activities for adults!
- As an EXTRA BONUS – we’ve included some amazing items for your road trip below that we LOVE! Interested in how we use these? Of COURSE you are – check our our post on the 17 things you totally forgot to pack, but need to!
DAY HIKING CHECKLIST
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Tell me about your Emerald Lake Hike experiences! Did you think the hike was easy or difficult? I’d love to hear your opinions and your experiences! I’d love to see your pictures as well!
Adieu for now!