Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes, Bear Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes - 3.6 miles

Bear Lake Trailhead

An aerial view of Emerald Lake from the Flattop Mountain Trail

An aerial view of Emerald Lake from the Flattop Mountain Trail

Round-Trip Length: 3.6 miles (includes all destinations)
Start-End Elevation: 9,475' - 9,705' (Nymph): 9,912' (Dream): 10,090' (Emerald)
Elevation Change: +230' (Nymph): +437' (Dream): +615' (Emerald)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes - 3.6 Miles Round-Trip

Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake are accessible from the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. A well maintained trail and modest climb lead to this trio of upper-montane lakes in Tyndall Gorge. The eponymous glacier is one of five active glaciers in the Park.

Photo Gallery

Follow signs from the Bear Lake Trailhead for Nymph, Dream and Emerald lakes. The trail climbs +230' to the south shore of Nymph Lake (.5 miles : 9,705').

Nymph Lake is small and ringed by pond lilies. Enjoy terrific views of Hallet Peak (12,713') and Longs Peak (14,259') from its north shore. The trail continues over Nymph's north shore to an opening in the forest (.8 miles) with clear views of Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge.

Travel moderates near the Lake Haiyaha split and veers right over a bridge spanning Dream Lake's outlet (1.1 miles : 9.912'). The lake's .35 mile (end-to-end) shoreline is accessible for fishing.

The trail follows the shore and steepens up Dream's tumbling inlet to Emerald Lake (1.8 miles : 10,090'). Emerald Lake fills a deep bowl carved by Tyndall Glacier from the eastern flanks of Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain (12,324').

Tyndall Glacier, located in a saddle between these mountains, is one of five active glaciers in Rocky Mountain National Park and Emerald Lake's primary benefactor. The lake's steep and rocky shoreline makes exploration difficult, though a clear path where many have passed circles north.

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Worth Noting

  • Those with extra time should consider a side trip to Lake Haiyaha (10,220'), which is only .95 miles and +308' (one-way) from Dream Lake. See Related Trail link above for more information.

  • Mild grades, good trail conditions, and clear markings make the hike to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes ideal for snowshoeing or skiing.

  • This is a very popular year-round hike; arrive early to secure parking and avoid of crowds.

  • Support re-vegetation efforts by staying on designated trails through protected areas.

  • This is a good 1st hike for those acclimating to higher elevations.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • There are no backcountry campsites on the hike to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald lakes. The following backcountry campsites are accessible from the Bear Lake Trailhead.

  • Permits are required for all overnight stays. Fires are not permitted within Rocky Mountain National Park. Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the silver metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red arrowheads on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail:

  • Sourdough Backcountry Campsite (10,628')

  • There is one designated site located 2.65 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead, 60 yards north of the main trail on the south flank of Joe Mills Mountain. The site is located in a level spruce bench. One bear box is available. Water is available from the North Fork of Mill Creek, Lake Helene and Two Rivers Lake.

  • Odessa Lake Backcountry Campsite (10,065')

  • There are two designated sites located 4.1 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead in a spruce-fir stand east of Odessa Lake on the north side of its outlet stream. The sites are located just over the log bridge crossing of this stream. One bear box is available. Water is available from Odessa Lake and its outlet stream.

  • Fern Lake Backcountry Campsite (9,530')

  • There's one group site and four individual sites located 5.1 miles and 5.3 miles from Bear Lake Trailhead, respectively. Both are located in a mixed pine forest on the NE and NW sides of Fern Lake, respectively. Each has access to a bear box + privy. Water is available from Fern Lake and its inlet - outlet streams.

Directions to Trailhead

Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes is accessed from the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Directions: Bear Lake is located at the end of Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. From Estes Park, take the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station entrance into the park. There is a fee to enter the park through this entrance.

Shortly after passing through the Beaver Meadows fee station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. Take Bear Lake Road until it dead-ends into the Bear Lake Trailhead area. If parking is unavailable at Bear Lake, it is possible to park at the Glacier Basin area and take a shuttle to Bear Lake.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Emergency Dispatch:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"I've been on this trail many times in the winter, but never on a weekday - what a difference that makes! So few people and I could really enjoy the quiet, snow-muffled forest. The winter route is pretty packed down so you can get away with just poles or traction, but snowshoes are still ideal especially if you want to explore the lakes a bit more. Snow is melting fast in the lower elevations so hopefully crowds will start to spread out more to other places. "
Kristy Tillerman  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: April 11, 2017
"Ohio resident where home is 1056 Ft. Elevation. 55 yr old. out of shape and overweight. Frequent rests for me up the trail. Emerald lake (10090 Ft elevation) i felt light headed for a few, but that's all. Trail and sights were spectacular. Dream and Emerald lake were very much worth the effort. looking forward to a return trip."
ronald  -  Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald  -  Date Posted: August 31, 2016
"One of our favorite winter hikes we've ever done. See our photos here... trailsunblazed.com/?p=1621"
Trails Unblazed  -  Massachusetts  -  Date Posted: April 13, 2016
"Went here the Monday after Broncos won the 2016 Super Bowl. It had snowed the week before, so a good amount of snow on the trail and even some on the road getting there. We dressed lightly with just snow boots and trekking poles (no snow shoes). Trail had a good amount of snow and all lakes were frozen solid. We had no problem navigating with our gear, got very windy and bitterly cold at some points, but the elevation and hike itself is super easy. I'd say I'm semi-regular hiker and my husband does AT section hikes regularly. Definitely hit all the lakes -- it's not that much hiking."
Megan Jenkins  -  Lynchburg, VA  -  Date Posted: March 1, 2016
"Packed snow trail; no need for snowshoes but treckers or crampons are a must along with treking poles. All lakes are still covered in snow/ice."
Rob Buettner  -  Fort Collins  -  Date Posted: April 11, 2015
"Got there in the mid morning when it was already crowded despite the rain. Was turned off by the asphalt trail for the first section but was a good first-day-there hike."
TH  -  Omaha  -  Date Posted: September 28, 2014
"Made it up to the emerald lake overview before the last bus left bear lake...what's the elevation of the overlook?"
Robert Uhoda  -  Cleveland, Ohio  -  Date Posted: September 3, 2014
"This was my first "real" hike, great time! I recommend it to anyone who visits Rocky Mountain National Park. "
bradrcole  -   -  Date Posted: August 20, 2014


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