Last Christmas we attempted to hike from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were forced to turn around before we made it due to high winds and heavy snow creating near white-out conditions. We’ve been meaning to try again for a while now, and this Saturday we finally had our chance. The weather forecast was good, and we had a full day with no other activities on the books.
We hit the road early, because experience told us that the parking lot near Bear Lake fills up around 9 or 10 in the morning. We made it right around 9:00, and found one of the last 20 or so spots in the lot. We layered up for warmth and strapped on our micro-spikes for traction, and headed up the trail. It was a pleasant day, albeit cold and windy. It was about 20 degrees in the parking lot, and only got colder as we ascended the trail. We soon realized that our drinking water was freezing if we didn’t keep it moving every few minutes!
The trail system starting from Bear Lake offers many options. We chose the one that would take us up past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and finally Emerald Lake at a bit over 10,000 feet above sea level. The wind was howling, but otherwise it was a very pretty day. We saw several dear and some birds along the way that seemed overly accustomed to people. It’s a nice little hike, at around 1.8 miles each way from the parking lot. It’s very much worth a half-day if you’re visiting the park. Just be sure to get their early!