Emerald Lake Colorado – A Gem of Rocky Mountain National Park


Article Categories: Hiking

Emerald lake is a perfect short hike for those of all levels. The views are outstanding, and the entire out and back trail is only 3.6 miles with 650 feet of elevation gain. This hike is listed as one of the best easy/intermediate hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Hike Stats | Trail Map | Trail Options | Winter | Parking & Directions

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.5 Miles Round Trip (5.63 km)
Elevation: 10,110 Feet (3,081.5 meters)
Duration: 2-3 Hours
Elevation Gain: 650 Feet (198 meters)


Trail Map

Emerald Lake Colorado Trail Map



There is one trail to Emerald lake which is located at the end of Bear Lake road. This 1.8 mile journey will take you past 3 lakes, Bear Lake (a couple hundred foot detour at the trailhead), Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake before hikers reach Emerald Lake. Each of these lakes feature stunning views of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.

This trail is very well traveled by all types of hikers. You will often see skiers in winter or climbers in summer heading up the boulder fields.

This is also the same location that hikers start at for summiting Flattop Mountain.


Hiking in Winter

This is one of the best winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National park due to the ease of access and highly trafficked trail. If you are new to winter hiking, this is a great starting point. Microspikes in winter times are often recommended, and snowshoes can be very helpful during heavy snowfall times. This trail is very well traveled, so the snow does pack down quite nicely, but frequently, snowshoes are helpful. We recommend always bringing along snowshoes and microspikes to put on as needed during the hike.


Fishing Along The Trails

Dream lake is a very common catch and release fishing destination. There are incredibly beautiful greenback cutthroat in this system. No fishing is allowed at Bear Lake.


Directions & Parking

During peak season, hikers should use the park shuttle. Information on the shuttle can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/shuttle_bus_route.htm

To Bear Lake Parking Area (At the end of Bear Lake Road)


Current Weather Conditions

Estes Park, CO


Additional Pictures

Emerald Lake Colorado

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about

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