A Leisurely Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park: Bear Lake Trailhead Loop

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Hiking Bear Lake Trailhead Loop at Rocky Mountain National Park

With over 350 miles of trails, scenery, and wildlife it’s easy to see why Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular destinations in the United States. The Bear Lake trailhead has quickly risen to the ranks of being one of the most trafficked hiking trails in the park because of its easy access and beautiful scenery.

At only 3.5 miles round trip and a total elevation gain of 650 feet, it’s also one of the most leisurely hikes to take in Rocky Mountain National Park. Each of the four lakes on the Bear Lake trailhead is unique and well worth the visit.

Although we recommend you visit the Bear Lake trailhead early in the morning as it can get really crowded, especially on weekends. If you happen to get there when the crowds are high, there is a shuttle that you can ride for free from one of the parking lots that is further away from the trailhead.

In this quick guide to the Bear Lake Trailhead hikes, you’ll visit Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. So let’s get going and see what beauty we have to see!

Bear Lake Trailhead

While the trail itself is named Bear Lake Loop, the Bear Lake trailhead isn’t the star of the show. You’ll first venture over to Bear Lake which is located close by the parking lot and has a paved access area. When you reach Bear Lake you can decide whether you want to view the lake from the start of the trailhead or walk around the whole lake (which we highly recommend!).

Roundtrip Length:  0.8 Miles
Trailhead Elevation: 9475 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 45 Feet

Bear Lake Loop - Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado
Bear Lake

Nymph Lake

After visiting Bear Lake you’ll make your way to Nymph Lake which is just a short distance away. Although there isn’t a loop around this lake you can still get close to view the beauty of this stop on the Bear Lake Trailhead. With the thousands of lily pads and lush green forests surrounding Nymph Lake, the atmosphere is quite mystical. On a cloudy day, you can see the reflection of the nearby mountains perfectly through the picturesque water lilies.

Roundtrip Length: 1.1 Miles
Trailhead Elevation: 9475 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 245 Feet

Nymph Lake on the Bear Lake Loop in Estes Park, Colorado
Nymph Lake

READ MORE: 8 Epic Things to Do in Estes Park

Dream Lake

Obviously, Dream Lake’s name rings true for all that see it. The view of the Rockies is incredibly breathtaking as well as the walk through the woods to get there. During the summer you’ll see an abundance of wildflowers along the path to get to Dream Lake and as you get closer, you’ll see an awesome view of Longs Peak in the distance.

Roundtrip Length: 2.2 Miles
Trailhead Elevation: 9475 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 450 Feet

Dream Lake - Bear Lake trailhead
Dream Lake

READ MORE: 7 Places to Visit on A Colorado Road Trip

Emerald Lake

At the end of the path lies Emerald Lake. Its glory lies in clear sunny days so you’re able to see the many colors of rocks that reflect off this small lake and the tall pine trees that are dispersed throughout the area. Due to some rock slides, this area is not in it’s prime but is still a beauty to behold.

Roundtrip Length: 3.5 Miles
Trailhead Elevation: 9475 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 650 Feet

Emerald Lake - Bear Lake trailhead
Emerald Lake

After visiting these four lakes on the Bear Lake Trail you’ll turn around and make the same loop back passing Dream Lake, Nymph Lake, and Bear Lake again. If you have time consider taking a moment to look at each of the lakes on your way because they change based on the time of day, weather, and sunlight!

Have you been to Bear Lake trailhead? What are some of your favorite hiking spots in Rocky Mountain National Park?

With hiking trails like Bear Lake Loop, it's easy to see why Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular destinations in the United States.


  • Reply
    August 3, 2017 at 12:19 PM

    This right here is exactly why I need to make it out to Colorado ASAP!! I’ve been in the winter, but have never gotten to do any Summer/ Fall hiking. Hope to change that soon!

  • Reply
    August 5, 2017 at 2:28 AM

    These photos are really beautiful! Recently was blown away by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies so I’m sure it’d be a similar experience in the Colorado Rockies. I love how serene it all looks. Hopefully will make it there soon!

  • Reply
    February 29, 2020 at 8:48 AM

    My favorite place in the Park is the summit of Longs Peak. It’s an arduous hike from the boulder field, scary across the Narrows, and careful climbing up the Homestretch, but it’s worth all of that to experience the view from the summit!

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