Trail Length: 4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,475 ft -10,140 ft
Elevation gain: 665 ft with and additional 185 ft.
Trailhead Location: Bear Lake Trailhead – Rocky Mountain National Park. Bear Lake is located at the end of Bear Lake Road. From Estes Park, take the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station entrance into the park and then take the first left onto Bear Lake Road.
With Martin Luther King Day coming up on Monday, it reminded me of the snowshoeing trek Lisa and I did a year ago on the same holiday. We decided to take advantage of the free National Park Day and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. The National Park Service offers several free entrance days throughout the year so we always try to take advantage of those days when we can. It’s great for those who don’t have an annual pass to the parks. FYI – for those interested – Free Days for 2013:
- January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- April 22-26 – National Park Week
- August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
- September 28 – National Public Lands Day
- November 9-11 – Veterans Day weekend
It turned out to be a cold, blustery day but it was a great trip. We headed up to Estes Park mid-morning and drove up the 9.5-mile Bear Lake Road to its end at the Bear Lake Trailhead parking lot. This area of the park is very crowded in the summertime but much more peaceful in the winter. We decided on the Nymph-Dream-Emerald Lakes trail. This trail is short, with relatively small elevation gain, and provides the opportunity to see three scenic lakes. We bundled up, got our snowshoes on, and started up the trail around 1:30pm. The climb up to Nymph Lake is quite moderate – only gaining 230′ in elevation in 0.6 miles. We arrived at Nymph Lake (9,700’) around 2:05pm.
Nymph Lake got its name from the colorful pond lilies that adorn it. The lake was originally called Lily Pad Lake but somewhere along the line it was changed to Nymph, which is short for Nymphaea polysepala, the original scientific name for the flowering plant. No lilies today – we’ll have to come back in the summer to see those!
We headed around the lake to start our journey up to Dream Lake. A look back across Nymph Lake.
A view up to Hallett Peak.
We started our climb from Nymph Lake.
Within 10 minutes we had climbed up enough to get a view looking back down on Nymph Lake.
We continued on up the trail towards Dream Lake.
After climbing another couple of hundred feet from Nymph Lake in the span of 0.5 miles, we arrived at Dream Lake (9,900’) around 2:40pm. Dream Lake is a long narrow lake that stretches 0.2 miles from east to west and lies in the shadow of majestic Hallett Peak.
The final stretch before reaching Emerald Lake.
After hiking 0.7 miles from Dream Lake, we arrived at Emerald Lake around 3:40pm. Emerald Lake sits at 10,100’ and gets its name from the green reflection of the rocks and minerals that make up the base of the lake (seen in the summer). From the lake, you have great views of the north face of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain’s south side.
Taking in the view at Emerald Lake.
Out on Emerald Lake.
A couple more shots around Emerald Lake.
We headed back down the trail a little before 4:00pm.
Back into the trees.
We continued back on down the trail, taking in the scenery and stopping to pose for pictures.
Even though it was a cloudy day, I think that added some different effects to the pictures. Hikes don’t always have to be on beautiful, sunny days even though we’re used to that in Colorado with over 300 days of sunshine a year in our state!