Bear Lake Trail

Bear Lake Trail

us United States

Update 2021: Many sites, parks, and places are open. However, please check the official websites and our visiting tips below.

When Is the Best Time

When Is the Best Time

This is a popular trail, which is beautiful any time of year, although busiest in the summer. The aspens turn in late September/early October.

Time of Day Tip: During peak summer months, the parking lot of this popular trail is already full between 8:30 and 9 AM. If possible, be there early around 7 AM.


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Where and Tips

Estes Park, Colorado
United States

We were there on October 12th, which was a very good balance for us: Late enough to avoid the summer crowds and to see some snow, yet early enough to see some of the aspens with their yellow leaves and it wasn't too cold or difficult to hike the trails. I think the Rockies are always beautiful, but I believe they're most beautiful with some snow. To catch the most aspen color, I recommend going in late September or early October.

In my opinion, this hike gives you the most "bang for your buck" in Rocky Mountain National Park: You can see four beautiful lakes in under 2 miles (or under 3 km) (one way) and a gain of elevation of 605 feet (184.4 meters). If you go all the way around Bear lake, then all the way to Emerald lake at the end of the trail and back, the total distance is about 4.2 miles (or 6.8 km). It's 0.6 mile (1 km) all the way around Bear Lake, then a 0.5-mile (0.8-km) hike and 225-foot (69-meter) gain in elevation to Nymph Lake, then a 0.6-mile (1-km) hike and 200-foot (61-meter) gain in elevation to Dream Lake, then a 0.7-mile (1.1-km) hike and 180-foot (55-meter) gain in elevation to Emerald Lake.

We wore several layers of clothing, and as the trail went in and out of the sun, we removed and then reapplied layers as needed. As we arrived at the highest point at Emerald Lake, it was cold enough to require all layers.

We were in Colorado for about a week, and this was my favorite hike on that trip.

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Fantastic photos! Looks gorgeous!

Since it really seems busy and crowded in summer: What do you think about going in spring, Michelle? Probably a little less people and maybe there is a chance to spot some blooming wildflowers?

Michelle R. Rundell

As with most places in the U.S., I imagine the busiest time is June - August when kids are out of school and families take their vacations -- especially places like this that can have harsh winters and many accommodations close for the winter. I agree, probably May would be good for wildflowers, but I haven't been there in the spring myself.


Beautiful trail, stunning lakes! Thanks, Michelle! Just read… They don't say that it's busy in spring. Besides late fall this might be a great season as well.