Emerald Lake Trail

EASY 262 reviews

Emerald Lake Trail is a 3.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Estes Park, CO that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from April until November.

3.3 miles 620 feet Out & Back

kid friendly


fly fishing


nature trips







wild flowers




no dogs

Take Hwy. 36 out of Estes Park to the RMNP entrance, then drive to the Bear Lake Road, take a left, and follow this road to the Bear Lake Trailhead.

54 minutes ago

Busy place but that's because it's relatively easy and definitely beautiful. Consider taking the free shuttle to keep our parks beautiful!

7 hours ago

1 day ago

Gorgeous trail. Came on a Tuesday morning and it was packed, but it didn't take away from the beauty. Absolutely wonderful and the hike was not bad at all. Definitely one you don't want to miss out on!

3 days ago

3 days ago

I really enjoyed the views we were at the Peking lot by 6 am and on the way up the sunrise on the peaks was fantastic. However on the way down the bus loads of people being dropped off for the 'easiest' hike in the park made this hike a lot less of the nature experience that I desire. Not to mention the fact the road is paved for the first .7-1 mile and people were complaining about stairs... if there were less people this would be much more of an appealing hike

I recommend getting there at or before sunrise and enjoy that view.

3 days ago

This may be the most popular hike (that is not a walk) in RMNP. However, don't let that popularity spoil the wonderful views that you will experience. There's a good reason it's popular. As others have said, it gets less crowded after Dream Lake, so make sure it is them and not you that miss the beauty of Emerald Lake. Add Lake Haiyaha for a little more challenging, longer hike with a trail and lake that will not disappoint.

5 days ago

Stunningly beautiful series of lakes - all three (Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake) are gorgeous but unique in character and scenery. Some of the best views are at points along the trail allowing Vistas of Long's Peak.

I'd consider this trail moderate in difficulty - ESPECIALLY if you are visiting us from out of area and are not used to the high altitude. It is nearly all uphill on the way out, including stair-climbing in the last section. Hikers sitting along the side of the trail with a dazed look and questions of "how much further to the lake?" were a common sight. It's do-able, though - take your time, and bring twice as much water as you think you'll need. If you can make it to any of the lakes, it's well worth the effort. Do finish all the way to Emerald if you can - it is the most dramatic view of the three.

I had a great time, but rate 4/5 stars as it is a crowded trail most times of the year. Most people were great, but a few would do well to review trail etiquette again.

6 days ago

Hiked this a couple months ago. Beautiful scenery. The best part about this hike is being able to take breaks at Nymph, Dream, and then Emerald Lake. The trail was definitely crowded, but it was still worth the hike. We ate lunch at Emerald Lake and then continued on to Timberline Falls.

7 days ago

8 days ago

Hiked winter 2015. Path was very well worn-no need for snowshoes until the trail to Emerald Lake. Absolutely beautiful scenery and a very easy trail. The trail was crowded even in the middle of winter, so get there early.

9 days ago

Quick and easy out and back. One of the most beautiful and scenic trails I've been on to date. Easy enough for kids of all ages. My 8yr old crushed it with only a few stops for air.

10 days ago

13 days ago

One of my favorite trails in RMNP. Beautiful mountain lakes along the way, but Emerald Lake is the real gem here.

16 days ago

Wow. My wife and I are just getting into the hiking scene here, and this was the perfect trail to make us both completely fall in love with it and dream about longer, less trafficked trails in the future.

Just a note about actually getting up to the trailhead. We didn't do enough reading beforehand, so we assumed it'd be just one shuttle bus from the Estes Park Visitor Center. I got the sense that a handful of other hikers were a bit confused, so I'm just going to add this quick bit of information, as it would've been helpful to us:

There's a shuttle that runs every half hour from the Estes Park Visitor Center (with a stop at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center) up to a park and ride location. From the park and ride location, there are two different shuttles—both seemed to also run once every half hour. One runs to the Bear Lake trailhead (which is what you'll need for the Emerald Lake trail), and the other runs to Moraine Park.

I figured it'd be helpful to post the above summary, but you can also find this info here:

19 days ago

Fairly easy hike up to Emerald Lake. I took off a day of work in the middle of the week to avoid the weekend crowd...but it was still really busy! Go very early 7am or sooner to be able to park in the Bear Lake Trail parking lot. That or its back down three miles to the Park & Ride Shuttle. Paved trail up unitil just past Nymph Lake. Dream Lake is stunning. Arriving at Emerald Lake the crowd likes to stay where the trail meets the lake. To get away from the crowd you can venture off to the north side of the lake there are some large flat rocks to sit on and take in the beauty of the lake & Hallett Peak.

20 days ago

Great hike. Few people once you get past Dream lake. Loved this hike!

22 days ago

Stunning trail with each lake being more beautiful than the last. I went on a weekday in August and it was heavily traffic. People were friendly. The last lake, Emerald Lake, wasn't nearly as crowded as the first two.

26 days ago

Positive-nice family hike with beautiful views. Negative-probably the most traveled trail in the park, no parking, so you have to shuttle

28 days ago

Good hike. Started before dawn so I was first one on the trail. Made loop to lake Haihaya, was able to avoid crowds until I was back at Alberta Falls