|Eleavtion Gain||699 ft|
|My time||1 hr 37 min|
|Closest Town||Estes Park|
|Food Nearby||Bird and Jim|
Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes In Winter
One of the most popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park is the hike that takes you to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes in Winter. The snow adds a tremendous amount of beauty to the hike. It also adds a degree of difficulty. Depending on the recent weather, spikes or snowshoes are also necessary. For those ready for windy and cold conditions, plenty of snow and amazing landscapes the hike can be one of the best in the park.
The hike to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes starts at the very popular Bear Lake Trailhead. This trailhead is big but fills up quickly even in the winter. There is a small area near the trailhead where you can put on spikes, snowshoes or ski’s. On the weekends there is usually a trail host there. It is always great to ask them on the current trail conditions.
Bear Lake is only a few feet away from the trailhead and it is a great place to head first. Bear Lake is usually the last lake to freeze and can have some thin ice so walking across it isn’t advised. After spending some time at the lake head back to the trailhead and make your way up to Nymph Lake.
The trail to Nymph Lake starts with a somewhat challenging third of a mile with an incline of a 10-12% grade. If you aren’t from Colorado or acclimated to the elevation this is a good first test! This section of the trail is in a thick wooded area and can be chilly in the mornings. Once you make it up the incline the trail flattens out to a 6% grade for another third of mile to Nymph Lake.
Nymph Lake in the summer is full of lily pads but in the winter it is frozen and snow covered. It looks a lot like just an open field. The trail when frozen leads directly across the lake. If the lake is frozen you will need to walk around the eastern edge to circle the lake and continue on the trail.
First Set of Views
After crossing Nymph Lake there is another bit of an incline that has a short burst of a 14% grade. You will also have to hike on some narrow snow ledges that can only be taken single file. When you clear the first narrow section you will come to an opening that turns out to your first big overlook.
After this snow-covered and rocky outcrop you will have another narrow section of trail that traverses the side of hill. This one, however, is open and provides amazing views.
Once you make it across the side of the hill you will have one more steep section before Dream Lake. This tenth of a mile stretch again hits a 14% grade but once you get to the top of it, there is one of my favorite views of the entire hike.
From here the trail flattens out again for the remaining tenth of a mile until Dream Lake.
Dream Lake is a long and narrow style lake with tall pines lining the hill to the south and is a bit more open on the opposite side. One word of warning, the wind is usually pretty intense around the lake. The lake is frozen for much of the winter and most people walk across it. If the lake isn’t frozen the main trail is on the right side bank. Be careful to keep your eyes out for circles in the ice where ice fisher’s may have been. This ice can be thinner than the rest of the lake.
I really enjoy Dream Lake and it is my favorite part of the hike. There is a connecting trail that traverses the hill to the south and heads to Lake Haiyaha. If you want to continue to Emerald Lake, continue across the lake towards the peaks in the distance and you will be on your way.
One More Push
It is only four-tenths of a mile between Dream Lake and Emerald but it is the steepest section of the trail. The steep and snowy hill gets pretty slick with loose snow on both the way up and down. It is really important to have spikes or traction of some sort to make it up and down the hill safely.
Once you make it to the top of the hill the last section to Emerald Lake should be a breeze. As soon as you clear the hill you see what you have put all the work in for. Just a tenth of a mile left until Emerald Lake!
Emerald Lake marks the end of the hike for most. Some will climb the bowl of mountains on the far side of the lake and then ski down. Just in case you see people coming down the mountains. The lake itself has a lower section that gives you access to the lake. There is also a trail that leads to a rocky overlook that gives a higher view.
Emerald lake is a smaller round lake that sits at the base of a bowl of peaks that wraps around on three sides. It is really an enjoyable place and a perfect end to the three lake hike.
After spending time enjoying the area, it is time to head back. The trail gets a little more challenging on the way back. Going down the hills you had to come up on the way can be much slicker. Spikes, snowshoes, or traction devices of some sort are highly recommended for the whole hike but definitely the descent! A great hike and some wonderful winter lakes.
Video of Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes in Winter.
I have put together a quick time-lapse video of my time at the Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes In Winter in order to give hikers a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video, make sure to Subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get updates for all the latest videos.
Distance and Elevation
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 3.50 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 699 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 10,126 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hour 37 minutes.
I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.
Despite this being one of the most popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, it is actually more difficult than some are anticipating. There is about 700 feet of elevation gain in the 1.75 miles out to Emerald lake so for those who aren’t used to that it can be taxing. Also, a lot of people come to visit the park that aren’t used to the overall elevation. The elevation briefly gets over 10,000 feet so that is something to keep in mind if you aren’t acclimated yet.
The snow adds another dimension of difficulty to this hike as it can get deep and the path can get narrow at times. Because of the large amount of hikers that use this trail, the snow is usually packed down but you will want either spikes or snowshoes to match the conditions. The steeper sections can also get really slippery even with traction and it is important to stay on the trail so you don’t sink in the looser snow. I am going to rank this hike as moderate and should be taken seriously with proper gear.
Snow, snow, and more snow. The trail between Nymph, Dream, and Emerald lakes gets a lot of snow in the winter. The snow is mostly packed down but you will want to have traction devices if you are going to head here in the winter. This trail also requires walking across the frozen Nymph and Dream lake. This can be nerve racking for many who aren’t used to walking on frozen lakes and I would suggest being very cautious and checking with the trail guides and rangers to make sure the lakes are properly frozen before starting your journey.
Finding Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes in Winter.
The trail to head to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes are located at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a very popular location all year round and parking is at a premium. In the summers you will need a timed entry ticket to get into the park.
All year long you will need to purchase a pass to enter Rocky Mountain National Park. The passes cost $35 per vehicle or you can buy a yearly pass to either Rocky Mountain National Park or the entire National Park System.
Wrapping up Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes in Winter
The hike to Nymph, Dream and Emerald lakes in winter is always one of my favorite. It is a great hike in the summer as well but there is just something magical about the winters in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail can be a bit harder than people are expecting so make sure you have some form of traction and are ready for the elements.
The views and the mountains are spectacular. The snow covered fields and lakes are impressive and walking across the frozen lakes is an interesting, if not a little scary, experience. If you are going to only do one hike in Rocky Mountain National Park this is probably the one to do.
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at email@example.com. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!