This section of the Rocky Mountains has ecosystems varying in elevation from the over 150 riparian lakes to Montane and subalpine forests to the alpine tundra. Large wildlife including mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and cougars inhabit these igneous mountains and glacier valleys. The fourteener Longs Peak and Bear Lake are popular destinations.
We hiked Mills Lake in Late September and have nothing but great things to say about this hike (we did not continue to Black Lake or Frozen Lake). Mills Lake is moderately difficult but rewards you greatly in the end with a sublime view left left us speechless. The way the trees reflect off the water is amazing. We also did Emerald Lake on our trip to RMNP and would say that the view here is superior. This epitomizes what you come to RMNP to see!
Emerald Lake is a very nice little hike. We did this in late September and it the weather was perfect. We got to the trailhead very early in the morning and got started on the hike. After a brief stroll you first come to Nymph Lake, which is a pleasant sight with beautiful Lilly pads and beautiful foliage. The next stop is Dream Lake - this was absolutely beautiful and in our opinions just as rewarding as Emerald Lake. After a bit more effort you are at the gorgeous Emerald Lake. As all the guide books correctly describe, this is a fairly easy hike with big payoffs. It was well travelled the morning we did it but we did not feel like it was too crowded or anything. People who are in decent shape or do a fair amount of hiking will find this to be not terribly challenging, however the altitude may pose a challenge for folks not used to it. We highly recommend this hike!
Excellent hike. We went on a Sunday afternoon in late October and caught the trail at an off time (passed only a couple people the whole time) with perfect weather. 4 hours round trip at a leisurely pace. Be sure to look for the cairns on the way up the final ascent, though I think there's several ways to get there. Following the trail down is more difficult, so be sure to look for markers/memorable trees, etc. Excellent views at the top, which comes as a surprise after a mostly tree-covered hike. Plenty of scrambling at the top for those who want it, and plenty of easier outcroppings for those who don't.
Scenic and simple for the beginner. This trail boasts everything someone visiting RMNP for the first time would want to satisfy their hiking experience, even if your just a blue moon type of hiker. The ancient glacier that passed thousands of years ago provides viewers confirmation of the simple and raw power that sheered the face of the granite peek above the lake providing landscape mastery painted with boulders and rubble gracing the lake below as if it was always supposed to be. Enjoy!
Pretty easy, flat for the most part to the lake. Good views, but the pine trees surrounding lake were dead. Pretty aspen grove before reaching lake. The elk were very close to trail when we went in the evening. We did a loop to the Pool and came out at Fern Lake trailhead which was nice because the hike past Cub lake was all downhill.
Rianne M. on Gem Lake Trail
Well-maintained trail climbs steadily upward to steep stone steps, culminating at Gem Lake. The lake was small and murky, but in an unusual setting surrounded by rock walls. Several of my traveling companions enjoyed casual rock-climbing both at the lake and at several formations along the trail. The climb is quite strenuous, but IMO the views of Estes Park near the top are worth the work.