Rocky Mountain NP: Nymph, Dream, & Emerald Lakes

Today, since it was Monday, we decided to brave Bear Lake and hike to the trifecta of popular Rocky Mountain lakes, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald. I say ‘brave’ because the “season” has definitely begun here in Estes Park. Locals say that the lines going into the park in summer can be miles long. This morning, fortunately, that was not the case. Bear Lake is the most popular area to saunter around Bear Lake or begin many other hikes, and the parking area there is generally closed to traffic by 8:30 or 9 on a summer day. You can still go there, but you must park at the Park and Ride, and catch a shuttle to the Bear Lake trailhead. Well, we found exactly that situation before 9 AM on a Monday. Hmmm. So that is what we did.

The Emerald Lake trail is truly a trifecta. You wind around Nymph and Dream Lakes on the trail to Emerald Lake, where this particular trail ends. Each one offers quiet places to reflect and enjoy the view before continuing on your hike. Total mileage to Emerald is 1.8 each way, generally uphill on the way out, and generally downhill on the way back. Today, we enjoyed huge snow piles, some in the scenery, and others right smack on the trail! There was a great deal of snowmelt, causing some of the snow to become a slippery, muddy mess, so no photos of that. 😉

Without further ado, here is the tiny but still gorgeous Nymph Lake, only one-half mile from the trailhead.


Nymph Lake panorama


Quiet reflection

After enjoying Nymph Lake, you wind around some fabulous rock formations, and then there is a fabulous lookout point that offers incredible vistas, and a view back down to Nymph.


Mountain view above Nymph Lake


Nymph Lake bottom left

Beauty growing out of impenetrable rock

Just before Dream Lake, at 1.1 miles, is a gorgeous waterfall and stream that is definitely worth a detour!

And then you wind around more fabulous rock fields and reach Dream Lake!


Dream Lake looking west


Lots of snow built up on the north-facing shore!

Lakeside closeup views. The water is crystal clear!


The trail follows Dream Lake for a good distance…this is looking back east


Just before leaving Dream Lake

Past Dream, the trail climbs over another rock ledge covered with snow, and water cascades down from Emerald Lake. It is just beautiful!

And then a perfect photo op…we took photos of others and a nice lady took ours as well.

And then you reach the crown jewel! Unfortunately, it was mobbed…as much as a National Park can be mobbed. I worked really hard to get shots without any people. 😉


Emerald Lake Panorama – spectacular!

We found a shady nook in the rocks on the right of the above photo to enjoy our lunch.

Our lunch views:



We had a leisurely lunch, soaked in the views, and then headed back down. The views and scenery were totally different on the way down, not to mention the ease of hiking, but still totally stunning.


Small pond before Dream Lake


Jerry on the snow and log bridge over a stream

Last three shots above Nymph Lake. It is amazing how the light changes over about 4 hours spent on the Emerald Lake trail. I think that this would be an amazing late afternoon or early evening hike…if you are not an early morning person! 😉


Thank you for coming along while we explore Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Much more to come over the summer! If you’d like to read more about our adventures in RMNP, you can go directly here.

19 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain NP: Nymph, Dream, & Emerald Lakes

  1. I am glad you got there at the right time Lynne. Even though these places are drop dead beautiful, when a hefty throng of locals and tourists converge during high season months, goodness the experience changes. I hit spots when they open; at the light of day, if need be. Easy way to skip the masses and enjoy nature. Rocking pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Ryan! You are right, the throng definitely changes the experience. I need to get motivated to get out earlier to improve my chances for a more ‘natural’ visit! 😉


  2. […] off in a row, and our one month anniversary here in Estes Park! Day off #1 (Monday) we hiked the Emerald Lake trail in Rocky Mountain NP, Tuesday we did a scenic day trip to Fort Collins (sorry, FB or Instagram […]


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