Emerald Lake Trail

MODERATE 1,042 reviews

Emerald Lake Trail is a 3.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Estes Park, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until November.

DISTANCE
3.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
708 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

kid friendly

birding

fishing

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

walking

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

no dogs

This scenic hiking trail to Emerald Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead is a popular route in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hikers will pass pristine alpine lakes including Nymph Lake and Dream Lakes and be treated to beautiful views of rocky peaks including Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak and Glacier Gorge. This is a great hike for photographers to capture spectacular shots of the surrounding mountains along the trail. The trailhead is at the end of Bear Lake Road - a short drive from Estes Park in Colorado. There is minimal elevation gain along the path which is paved for the first half-mile. The trail is open year-round.

1 day ago

4/21/18 Drop dead gorgeous views at every step! It has moderate steepness but the rewarding views are worth it! Definitely need microspikes! Some spots were a bit slippery/on edge!

backpacking
1 day ago

A few friends and I hiked this trail about 2 weeks ago right after it snowed about 3 feet. It was the most beautiful and breathtaking hike I’ve ever done.

1 day ago

Hiking in the snow! Great scenery along the way! Many folks had skis or snow shoes, but I was just fine with crampons and poles. I had a really hard time with the lungs of flatlander, but you feel awesome when you come off that last ridge.

2 days ago

This was my first hiking experience in Colorado and I’ll never forget it. There are several scenic places along the trail that would each be worthy destinations. The last of the lakes on the trail, Emerald Lake, is a generous reward for a moderate half-day hike.

hiking
3 days ago

What an amazing view at the top! This is a great hike to take visitors to. It's not too long, not too hard, and such an amazing payoff at the end!

As always, start early!

4 days ago

Extremely popular trail. We started at 6:30 in the morning and didn't have to share Emerald Lake with too many people, so going early will earn you a little more serenity. It's gorgeous all the way there.

hiking
5 days ago

Hiked this on a Monday, 4/16 ~0930. Only shared the trail with 1 other couple but the lot was filled by the time we left. Microspikes absolutely needed, gorgeous hike! Can be difficult to find the trail at first, just take a left at the huge boulder after Nymph

hiking
5 days ago

We hiked this with 4 kids aged 5 through 9. We made many stops along the way but was delightfully enjoyed by all. We were there in July, the trail was crowded but less so as we passed the first two lakes. We swam in the lake, it was wicked cold, and then basked in sun on the large rocks to dry off. Great times by all.

snowshoeing
10 days ago

(8 p.m. - 11 p.m.) Snowing at Bear Lake parking lot and all the way through Emerald Lake. Nymph and Dream both had water on top of the ice and had to walk along their shores. Used crampons from the parking up to Dream Lake and then switched to snowshoes. Wind has always picked up at the start of Dream Lake, with the snow visibility was poor, needed to use a head lamp to and from Emerald Lake. It was a good trip!

11 days ago

Great for most levels of ability. No need for snow shoes, was just fine in microspikes, probably wouldn’t recommend without. Beautiful views throughout the hike.

12 days ago

Beautiful, fun hike! Did on 4/11 and traction definitely helped, especially coming down. You definitely don’t need snowshoes right now though. The trail is pretty easy to follow for the most part. Just make sure when leaving Nymph Lake, you go on the left side of the rock, not the right.

14 days ago

Words can’t describe the beauty of the entire hike. Not a bad hike at all good for everybody

hiking
16 days ago

Very beautiful area, you’ll definitely need micro spikes and trekking poles, it made a world of difference even on the easy bear lake hike. Unfortunately we got lost after nymph lake and had to turn back. Wish there was some visual marker after nymph lake.

The mountain shop is 30 minutes away, not 12 minutes as one reviewer posted so best to get the spikes first.

hiking
20 days ago

Went 3/24 and was still snow covered. Only had tennis shoes and was doable, but we were slipping a little bit on the way down. Absolutely gorgeous trail though. Competitive parking be prepared to wait or get there early

hiking
21 days ago

We hiked 4/1. There was a group of 6 of us new to hiking in CO, in snow. We hiked around Bear Lake as a test run and realized despite waterproof and good hiking shoes, microspikes is definitely a game changer. The ranger suggested we rented then at Estes Park Mountain Shop (12min away). Definitely worth it! They're $8/day and makes a world of difference. With that we decided to try the Emerald Lake Trail which has beautiful and breathtaking views! The view is so worth it when you get to the end. You get to pass Nymph Lake and Dream Lake on the way. Trail is very snowy and icy, a lot of the snow already packed from other hikers. General good rule we found is stick left going up and stick right going down until you get to Dream Lake. This hike is such a great hike for us snow hiking newbies and really gave us a great first start in hiking in snow. Trekking poles were really helpful for us and I would recommend. Microspikes I would highly recommend. Despite the wind and cold, we were able to hammock at the end to enjoy the wonderful view. It took us 2 hours (took 30 min break for lunch) to get there but that's with many stops because most of us were use to not hiking at a higher elevation and the steep parts winded a lot of us. We also stopped to take off layers since we were getting hot and great spots to take scenic pictures!

hiking
21 days ago

Very icy trails, definitely will want spikes. Ice is thin at the lakes outlets/inlets. Saw a few people get wet. (3/31/18)

snowshoeing
23 days ago

Love this hike! Winter or summer. Moderate and BEAUTIFUL views.

hiking
23 days ago

this hike is still very snowy in the spring, but it isn’t too hard and offers a rewarding view at the end. don’t forget shoes with good traction.

29 days ago

Hiked this trail in late September 2017. Be sure to pack good rain gear. A standard cheap rain coat from Walmart will work half way up the incline, but the cold will begin to make it easier for the fabric to tear. Wear good hiking shoes (water resistant if possible), the trail will be wet especially if it's snowing/raining.

Great views the whole way! Pristine lakes! Go when weather is nice, the trip will be much more enjoyable.

1 month ago

Still a winter wonderland and definitely worth a visit. Hiked on 3.18.18 in boots with a friend hiking in tennis shoes. Doable, but spikes/more tread would be helpful on the way down! The trail itself is hard to see in some places, but mostly just follow the packed snow. What a dream.

hiking
1 month ago

Breathtaking views from this busy trail. Went on March 18, 18 before the expected snow. crampons or spikes were a must, those without them were REALLY struggling. Didn't quite see the need to go as extensive as snow shoes, while many had them. my 5 y.o., wife and I did great with just the crampons, enjoying every mountain view along the way. Lots of deer, and elk not from from the trailhead as well.

hiking
1 month ago

Trail was very snowy and due to the past few days of wind the snow wasn't very packed. Super beautiful and amazing hike and there were plenty of people on the trail, but I would not recommend it without snow shoes

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked 3/13 with boots plus 30 lbs of camera gear, 20oz of water, a camera monopod/tripod/walking stick, and a MacBook Pro 15 (Which I regret carrying). Trail is mostly snow and very little ice unless you include the frozen lake. Great for first timers during all seasons. Definitely quite the winter wonderland and there's a fair amount of friendly people throughout the trail.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked 3/14. Great hike for people who are familiar with the outdoors. We hiked with just hiking boots but microspikes would have definitely been handy as the snow was a bit slick/slippery. Beautiful weather made it an incredibly beautiful hike. When we arrived at Emerald Lake it was extremely windy but we were able to sit and take in the majesty of the lake for a few minutes before we headed back.

1 month ago

Great trail for beginners like myself! Can’t wait to go in the summer

1 month ago

Amazing hike!

1 month ago

Did the hike on Sunday, 3/4, and the snow was packed down enough to hike in my hiking boots. I had Yaktrax on, which helped a lot after the sun got warmer and slushed up the snow on some of the steeper parts. The trail does take on a few different paths at points, but they all converge together eventually. Get there early, too! I got there at about 9:30, and the giant lot was already half full, and by the time I got down around 11:30, it was completely full.

hiking
1 month ago

Snow is packed enough to do in boots!

1 month ago

Beautiful start to finish

1 month ago

Beautiful hike and great length. Only thing that was tough is it was very snowy and we forgot to bring spikes/ snow shoes.

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