Nymph-Dream-Emerald Lake

Trail Length: 4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,475 ft -10,140 ft
Elevation gain: 665 ft with and additional 185 ft.
Difficulty: Easy

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.

Nymph Lake

A view up to Hallett Peak.

Emerald Lake Trail - Hallett Peak

We started our climb from Nymph Lake.

Heading up from Nymph Lake

Within 10 minutes we had climbed up enough to get a view looking back down on Nymph Lake.

Nymph Lake

Nymph Lake

We continued on up the trail towards Dream Lake.

Emerald Lake Trail with Hallett Peak

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.

Dream Lake with Hallett PeakDream Lake with Hallett Peak in the background

The final stretch before reaching Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake Trail

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.

Flattop Mountain

Flattop MountainFlattop Mountain

Taking in the view at Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake

Out on Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake

A couple more shots around Emerald Lake.

View at Emerald Lake

View from Emerald Lake

We headed back down the trail a little before 4:00pm.

Emerald Lake Trail

Back into the trees.

Emerald Lake Trail

We continued back on down the trail, taking in the scenery and stopping to pose for pictures.

Nymph Lake Trail

Emerald Lake Trail

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!

11 thoughts on “Nymph-Dream-Emerald Lake

  1. Weather not unlike the UK at the moment, cold, snowy and cloudy. You are absolutely right that not every day needs to be sunny. You need some contrast to appreciate the best parts of all kinds of weather. Sometimes just being in the outdoors is enough reward

  2. Bob again I you have captured the heart and soul of our great state! I so enjoyed these winter photos of this area. We have often hiked here, but have yet to snow shoe at this location, but now I am inspired to do so on our next trip. Thanks for sharing these beautiful images!

      • I also want to tell you Mr. Linhart, that I truly appreciate your photography as being very REAL! There are so many these days that alter their photos and I find it disingenuous. Though I am but a novice photographer, I am a student of it. I learned on film, back when an educated guess on exposure was the best one could do. I also worked in the dark room developing my own photos. The digital age makes it much easier to produce elaborate photo’s but to me this is not always true art. Though there may be a place for photo shopped photographs, I appreciate that your photos are very natural, real and not altered. Always look forward to viewing them. Thanks-

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