Rocky Mountain National Park: Emerald Lake trail

Emerald Lake Trail
Emerald Lake Trail

Unforgettable and stunning, this hike in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado will take you above the clouds and very close to the highest peaks of the Rockies. The beautiful Rocky Mountains are 70 million years old.  There are three lakes and other wonders on the Emerald Lake trail.  Each lake has a very distinct character.

We got out of the car in the Bear Lake parking lot and soon began shivering from the cold. It was September, but all the trees were heavily dusted with snow. We entered the forest, which was shrouded in fog, and wondered if it was the elevation or the natural beauty that took our breath away. Huge rocks among the fur trees looked like they were thrown by a giant’s hand. 

The first lake we reached was Nymph Lake. This lake is surrounded by a thick forest of fur trees and has a whimsical beauty about it. Yellow lilies were floating on the surface of the lake and a mist was rising from its water. We briefly saw something which puzzled us.  Was it a silhouette of a nymph from a fairy tale or a piece of a dissipating cloud, chased away by a breeze?

Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake

The air was thin, moist and crispy. The trail follows a fast running creek connecting Nymph Lake and Dream Lake.

Emerald Lake hike





Before reaching Dream Lake, we stopped to admire the view of a saddle between of two mountain peaks.  The saddle had patches of snow on it.

The Saddle

Dream Lake
Dream Lake





Dream Lake has a humble, unpretentious beauty. Fir trees guard its rocky shore and we could see fish swimming in crystal clear water.

As we were hiking up to our final destination, a curious chipmunk came across the trail hoping for a tasty morsel. Surprisingly friendly and tame, it allowed its picture to be taken.

A curious chipmunk
A curious chipmunk


Emerald Lake with its clear water penetrated by the sun tells a story of a relentless, wild nature. The water has exactly the same color, changing its hue from light emerald close to the shore to dark emerald in the middle. Steeply rising rocky shores are almost deprived of vegetation except for narrow swaths of fur trees. How was this lake born?

Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake



Was there a glacier that swiped all life from the cliffs and melted at the bottom? This is a mystery.


On our way back, a blue bird made a surprising appearance.

Blue jay
Blue jay





Intertwined roots of a fallen tree on the side of the trail stood as monument to the perpetual cycle of Nature.


The trailhead is at the end of Bear lake road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail is considered moderate, rising from 9,475 feet to 10,090 feet above sea level.




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