Thing to Do

Emerald Lake

the sun shines on a mountain ridge and lake
Emerald Lake

NPS Photo / Debbie Biddle

  • Distance: 4.1 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 744 feet
  • Type of Trail: Out & Back, Moderate

From the Bear Lake Trailhead, Emerald Lake is a steady climb through aspen groves and ponderosa pine. At just over a half-mile, you will reach Nymph Lake, a charming lake filled with pond lilies that bloom throughout summer. Another half-mile in, you will reach the east end of Dream Lake as well as a junction – from here Emerald Lake is about another mile with steady elevation gain.

The trail to Emerald Lake continues around the north shore of Dream Lake, traversing deeper into Tyndall Gorge. As you gain elevation you'll pass through a fairy-like pine forest with Tyndall Creek gently flowing down the gorge. Upon arrival, the jagged spires of Flattop Mountain can be seen across this iconic alpine lake.

Note: Due to the extreme popularity of this hike, you might want to arrive early. The Bear Lake area is very busy, especially in summer and on fall weekends. Parking often fills by early morning. Roads are congested. The park’s free shuttle bus is here to help! You can ride the shuttle to stunning destinations and popular trailheads, all while avoiding the hassle of dealing with traffic and searching for parking.

Storm Warning: Weather in Colorado can turn in an instant! Be prepared for changing weather conditions. Check the forecast before heading out. Lightning can strike anywhere in Rocky. Watch for building storm clouds and return to the trailhead immediately if you hear thunder. As a rule of thumb, try to be back at the trailhead by noon.


Pets are prohibited on all trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
Bear Lake Trailhead

From May 27 to October 10, 2022, Park Access + Bear Lake Road Timed Entry Permit Reservations are requied to access destinations along the Bear Lake Road corridor, from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Timed Entry Permit Reservations are only available to be booked through One Timed Entry Permit Reservation is $2.00 and non-refundable.

A Timed Entry Permit will cover one vehicle and all passengers in the vehicle.

Accessibility Information
This is not a paved trail. It is rugged with a total elevation of 744 feet.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Last updated: July 13, 2022