Emerald Lake Trail

#5 in Best Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Emerald Lake Trail picture
Brad McGinley Photography/Getty Images

Key Info

Bear Lake Rd.

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Recreation, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.4scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

This popular 3 ½-mile, round-trip hike winds past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Tyndall Creek, and offers some breathtaking views of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain before reaching the subalpine Emerald Lake at an elevation of 11,000-some feet. 

Recent travelers recommended getting to the trailhead early to avoid crowded conditions on this popular trail. Also, unless you're visiting in the summer, visitors suggest bringing along some slip-on spikes for your shoes since the trail will likely be snow-covered. 

You can reach the Emerald Lake Trail from the Bear Lake trailhead, found at the end of Bear Lake Road, about 9 miles from the turnoff at Highway 36. Make sure to take the trail that branches off to the left for the Emerald Lake Trail; the trail that veers to the right will take you to the Bear Lake Loop. Unless you get to the parking lot early, you might want to ditch your car and instead rely on the park's free shuttle since this is a popular hike. Access is free with park admission. 

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More Best Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road1 of 6
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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Trail Ridge Road

Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service between 1929 and 1933, once said about Trail Ridge Road, "It's hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make. You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions." Trail Ridge Road was a sensation when it debuted back in 1932 and it remains so today for the travelers that make the 48-mile drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake, rising above the tree line for 11 miles at an elevation of nearly 11,500 feet. Visitors should keep that in mind when they're stopping at the lookout points that the road experiences temperatures that are 20 and even 30 degrees lower than both Estes Park and Grand Park. 

Most travelers call Trail Ridge Road a must-do while in Rocky Mountain National Park. One recent traveler, who said she spent a full day taking in the "stunning views" along Trail Ridge Road, saw elk, marmots and moose. Stopping at the pull-offs yields some spectacular photo ops, and some offer restrooms. 

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