Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall is a dream. With abundant sunshine, moderate temps and bright yellow aspens, I couldn’t resist booking trips there back to back years. If you manage to hit the fall colors just right, it appears as if a paintbrush of orange, reds and yellows had covered the mountainsides. Although Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 square miles of beautiful landscapes, today I am going to cover the hike from Bear Lake Trail head hike to Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes. Providing magnificent views of Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, and Glacier Gorge, this hike cannot be missed.
Getting to Bear Lake Trail head in Rock Mountain National Park
On both trips to Colorado, we stayed in nearby Boulder, a lively college town that is home to University of Colorado. It is about an hour drive from Boulder to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park Entrance. From there we followed Bear Lake Road toward the Bear Lake trail head. Due to the size of the crowds, there are multiple areas to park and ride. The shuttle was very convenient and drops off and picks up at a number of trail heads in the area. We road the shuttle to the Bear Lake.
In total, the hike to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes is 3.6 miles out and back with a 780 foot elevation gain. The hike is pretty popular, well marked, and scenic the entire distance.
Bear Lake is the first stop just a short distance from the trail head. There is a well maintained and easy trail that loops around the lake and provides many photo opportunities. Be sure to take this easy loop before setting off on the rest of the hike.
From Bear Lake, the trail climbs 230 feet over about a half mile to arrive at Nymph Lake. Nymph is charming, small lake filled with pond lilies and provides views of Hallet and Longs Peaks from its north shore.
From Nymph, we climbed another 200 ft across 0.6 miles to arrive at Dream Lake. Along the way, there are gorgeous views we had to stop and take in.
Once we arrived, we were treated with stunning views of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain bordering the lake. I will let the pictures do the talking here.
Emerald Lake is another 0.7 miles and roughly 200 feet of elevation gain beyond Dream Lake. Once again, we were rewarded with excellent views of creeks running through wildflowers in the shadow of mountain peaks along the length of this hike.
Although Dream Lake was stunning, the scale of the peaks rising beyond Emerald Lake took my breath away. Although very windy and cold on my first visit with snow visible on the mountain peaks, the second trip was much warmer and more serene. Sitting at 10,100 feet, Emerald Lake is worth the effort to see. We brought a lunch to sit and enjoy while basking in the sun and these views.
Upon returning to the Bear Lake trail head, we decided to take the 0.8 mile trail to Alberta Falls. This trail meandered through some brilliant yellow aspen canopies. Upon arriving at Albert Falls, we climbed the rocks for an excellent lookout back over the mountain range sprinkled with fall color.
After a great day of hiking, on the way out of the park, we stumbled upon a large gathering of elk.
We could not have asked for better weather or a better hike to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. Although we have only scratched the surface of what this National Park has to offer, this hike alone was well worth the visit!
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