Bear Lake Trail – Rocky Mountain National Park

Crystal Profile Pic

By Crystal Egli

DATE OF HIKE: 11/21/15

HIKE LENGTH: A whopping .8 miles.



TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: 45 whole feet.


This past weekend brought us a visit from Andre’s sister Lisa, and our brother-in-law Seth. They are also super oudoorsy and we love going on wine tastings hikes with them. So when they came to town for a visit we just knew we had to show them around our new playground, Rocky Mountain National Park.

With an easternly entrance through Estes Park, our options were limited as Trail Ridge Road is closed for the winter. Coming from SoCal, our guests weren’t exactly prepared for a long trek through frigid wilderness, so we took them up to Bear Lake Trail, which ended up being a short trek through frigid wilderness.


It wasn’t as cold as it looks. It was colder. (Photo by Lisa!)

There is a HUGE parking lot at the trailhead, which is almost as big as the lake itself. We’re talking 100’s of spots, so expect this place to be packed in the summer months, because it was 1/2 full even in blustery winter conditions.

The trailhead starts off by a small ranger’s station with a smiling Park Ranger standing out front answering people’s questions. There are restrooms as well as covered picnic tables, providing luxurious amenities for those who don’t oft find themselves in the middle of the woods without a place to squat for either business.

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Trailhead amenities.

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You read that right. 256′.

Walk about 10 yards up the trail and you will find a sign indicating how far it is to the lake. Yup. That says 256′. So you don’t have very far to go to reach your primary destination. Turns out this trailhead is a good starting spot for a number of other trails as well.


We knew going into the hike that Bear Lake is where many of the quintessential “Rocky Mountain National Park” photos are from, so beautiful scenic landscapes were a guarantee, but the views we saw were out of this world.


Photo by Lisa!

If our hands weren’t frozen solid, we would have spent all day taking pictures. Here’s a few we did manage.


“You guys didn’t want like a nice picture of the two of you, did you?”

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View from about 1/4 of the way around the lake, if you start in a counter-clockwise direction.

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Andre took this photo on a 15 year old camera he found in a bar.

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Many people wore snow shoes. Seth wore sneakers. He is now down to 8 toes.

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Does this remind anyone else of that Grey’s Anatomy episode…?


Pano from the far side of the lake, where it was much darker and colder.

This was a really easy, quick hike. Its great for small kids, older folks, and people who may not be able to climb over rocks and boulders. That’s not to say it isn’t worth going to if you are a more advanced hiker. The scenery is to die for, (and you probably will die if you walk out on that ice, so don’t do that,) and we will definitely be heading out there in the summer to see what those gorgeous mountains look like underneath all that snow.

On our drive back to civilization, we came across a sight we are now coming to understand as normal. About 10 cars were pulled off to the side of the road, and everyone had stopped to look at this:

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This picture shows about 1/2 of the couple hundred elk that were just hanging about like it wasn’t hunting season or anything.

Bottom line is, get yourself to Bear Lake, but be warned that everyone and their mothers will also be there. In the words of the immortal Yogi Beera, “No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.”

– C. Egli

Categories: HikingTags: , , , , , , , , , ,


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