Nymph Lake > Dream Lake > Emerald Lake
Starting Elevation: 9400 ft
Highest Elevation: 10,100 ft
Trail Uses: hiking, snowshoe, cross-country skiing, hike in ski out…. anything with skis….
Trail Length: Officially 3.8 miles, we walked around Emerald and Nymph lakes a lot so we got around 4.5 miles for the day… it took us 3 hours although we did spend 30 minutes at Emerald lake in awe.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Bathrooms: Yes in the parking lot
Pets: No- No pets allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park
Fees – Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass
I have to tell you that I have been getting humbled by our snowshoes and how these shorter distances kinda kick my butt. With that said I picked this easier snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park ( RMNP) in hopes that if I try something a little easier I won’t feel so defeated at the end. It is short and the elevation gain is minimal.
As we were driving into the park, we were lucky enough to catch these Elk battling it out.
We pulled into a huge parking lot that was quickly filling up at Bear Lake. If this lot is full, they suggest parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot and walk up from there. I was impressed with how many people were out there given it was St. Paddy’s day weekend and the weather forecast was questionable. The weather was supposed to be exactly like our first snowshoe at Mills Lake via Glacier Gorge, snowy with a lot of wind. I had already made peace with the fact that I would not get any views just some experience and work on my leg strength with those snowshoes on. Getting out the car I was not surprised by our view.
There are 2 options at this parking lot… well a lot more than 2 but for snowshoeing you had Bear lake, which is a 1 mile loop around Bear lake Or the 3 lakes we were going to that day; Nymph, Dream & Emerald. We took the path kinda up the middle and to the left of Bear Lake. It is not far to Nymph lake, in fact maybe a half a mile and the path was hard packed we didn’t have our snowshoes on but carried them instead. It was not super steep but we did climb up to the lake. It was snowing even harder upon our arrival then when we started.
When we got there I realized I had left my directions in the car and so we started going the wrong way. I should have just looked for the hard packed trail but there was a large guided group there as well and it threw me off. We went right and the snow felt lass hard here so I put my snowshoes on. That’s when we saw everyone going left along the lake so we turned around and followed them up. For the record I didn’t need my snowshoes for this portion either and really I could have gone without them until Emerald lake where I was actually out on the lake adventuring around. It was kind of steep going up this section, I would say the most steep of the whole snowshoe and it was busy!
When we got to Dream Lake, I was once again confused by where to go. There is a clear path off to the left but it must go up to other options, we decided to stay straight and cross over dream lake hoping to get to Emerald lake. I was so consumed to see where everyone else was going that I failed to notice it was starting to clear up. We thankfully crossed the path of another snowshoer who said we were on the right track for Emerald Lake and so we continued on.
It was not far to this last lake with some more climbing, a little over half a mile. As we got a little higher, the sky lit up in the best blue while clouds moved around the peaks surrounding the lake. It was amazing! When we got to Emerald Lake Aaron put on his snowshoes while I ran out on to the lake to try to capture the views as best I could before we lost them again. Honestly I could have stayed there longer it was so beautiful. The best part is we had it mostly to ourselves.
We spent about 30 minutes ohhhing and ahhing before heading back. It was a slow start back because I kept turning around to enjoy the views before they were gone. By the time we got back to Dream lake the clouds had moved back in, while the crowds were on the move to Emerald lake. We passed so many people on the way down.
Overall it was a great snowshoe! I would love to take visitors here so they could see the amazing beauty for themselves. I know I will be back in the summer, there is another lake to check out and so much to see, all off this parking lot. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were in terms of our timing, it made me want to get back there as soon as I could!
Since the snowshoe was on the easier side, we got out on Sunday and did 7 miles at Deer Creek Canyon which is a muddy, snowy, icy mess right now. It was a good workout. After the directions will be some of my favorite pictures from the day.
However your week is going, find some time and get out there and hike!
Directions: From Estes Park stay on 66/36 through town, at the 3rd light in town, turn left and follow the signs to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station entrance into the park. There is a fee to enter the park through this entrance.
Shortly after passing through the Beaver Meadows fee station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. Take Bear Lake Road until it dead-ends into the Bear Lake Trailhead area. If parking is unavailable at Bear Lake, it is possible to park at the Glacier Basin area and take a shuttle to Bear Lake.