Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes - Hiking
A guide to hiking to hiking Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The trail to Emerald Lake is 1.8 miles, making the out-and-back hike total 3.6 miles. There are also options to extend the hike. For example, just before you reach Dream Lake, the trail forks with Dream Lake immediately to the right, and a 1.2 mile trail leads to another lake, Lake Haiyaha. This trail is much steeper and more strenuous, but offers fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains and the other lakes below. The trail also connects to a network of trails between the Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge trailheads. If you really want to extend your adventure, you can head back via the Loch, and if you get an early enough and really want to get some miles in, you can even cut over to the Loch and head up to Sky Pond. There are lots of options to extend the adventure, as long as you plan ahead and know the geography of the area!
Destination Distance From Downtown
This hike is relatively short; the trail ends at Emerald Lake after 1.8 miles, and there are plenty of natural places to stop and soak in the scenery. There are a few portions of the hike that are slightly steep and more strenuous, but for the most part, the hike is quite mellow.
Time To Complete
Two hours is probably plenty of time for most folks to make it out to Emerald Lake and back to the trailhead, but you may want to add more time to soak in the views, relax by one of the lakes, or add an extension to your hike.
Summer and fall are ideal times to hike this trail. During the winter, as you might imagine, the trail is covered in snow and sometimes ice. It's beautiful, but you must be sure you are adequately prepared with proper footwear (warm boots and snowshoes, or possibly light crampons/YakTraks), and know how to navigate without being able to see the trail. Please don't venture into an unfamiliar area in the winter without proper navigational skills! The spring can be a lovely time to visit as well, but be sure to check weather conditions, as it can snow in the Rockies quite late in the season. And check before hiking in the fall as well. Summer is the busiest time for Rocky Mountain National Park, and Bear Lake is one of the most popular places in the park, so either plan to get a very early start or plan to park in one of the satellite lots and take the free RMNP shuttle to the Bear Lake Trailhead.
Unfortunately dogs are not permitted on national park hiking trails.
You don't need a permit to hike here, but you will need to pay for a pass to get into the park, unless you already have a National Park pass. A day pass is $20 for one vehicle, or you can get a 7-day pass for $30. You could also visit the park on a day when entrance fess are waived, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Park Week, the National Parks Service birthday weekend (end of August), National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.