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.
Need To Know Information
- During a large portion of the year, Rocky Mountain National Park requires permits. Permits can be purchased here along with all other relevant info: https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10086910
- Other permit info (You should read this information): https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/timed-entry-permit-system.htm
- Dogs are not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Parking fills up, so the shuttle system in the park can be used when it does.
- A national parks pass is required to enter the park when the gates are being operated.
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
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
Snow showers likely. Mostly cloudy. Low around 11, with temperatures rising to around 13 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -3. West southwest wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
Snow showers likely before 2pm, then snow showers likely and patchy blowing snow between 2pm and 5pm, then snow and patchy blowing snow. Cloudy. High near 14, with temperatures falling to around 10 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -9. West southwest wind 14 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
Snow and areas of blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 5. Wind chill values as low as -15. West southwest wind 21 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
Snow likely and areas of blowing snow before 7am, then blowing snow and snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 9. Wind chill values as low as -23. West wind 25 to 39 mph, with gusts as high as 62 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
Snow. Cloudy, with a low around 6. West wind 37 to 43 mph, with gusts as high as 68 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.
Snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 18. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.
Snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 14. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, 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. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about