Emerald Lake Trail – You Gots To Go!

Crystal Profile Pic

By Crystal Egli

I can’t even believe some of the views we saw on Emerald Lake Trail. EPIC.

Click here for directions to the trailhead.

Last week we brought out the snowshoes and drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park to check out a new trail. Emerald Lake did not disappoint. I mean… here, just look at this…

Emerald Lake Trail Map

Emerald Lake shares a trailhead with Bear Lake & Glacier Creek Trails, amongst others.


Whoops, not that picture. That map is boring! I meant this one.


Emerald Lake RMNP-2588

Yeah, that’s it! I’m even at a loss for words to write here. The hike was simply breathtaking, and I don’t mean because it was cold. Before I go on, let’s get some trail details out of the way.


Emerald Lake RMNP-2993

There are amazing views even from the parking lot.





DISTANCE: 3.5 miles, out and back

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy. Saw many families with small children along the trail.

PROS: The views!! It was like being in a Christmas movie.

CONS: Crowded, like any easy to access National Park trail will be.


Emerald Lake RMNP-2982

Whoops! Water froze in my Camelbak. Gotta get one of those line insulator thingies.


Having spent the past 9 years living in Los Angeles, neither Andre or I have done much winter hiking since we were kids growing up in the sticks. After the slightly overwhelming First Day Hike I still didn’t know how I felt about being outdoors in the cold for prolonged periods of time. But we trekked out to Rocky Mountain National Park and I couldn’t be happier we did. First of all, it turns out I LOVE snowshoeing and am now addicted. (It was a little weird when I wore them to the office on Monday.) Second, not sure if you’ve gotten the memo yet, but THE VIEWS ARE AMAZING OUT THERE, and I never would have gotten to see them without some winter wonderland adventuring. Sure, the trails were incredibly crowed, as will be the case with any easy-to-get-to National Park Trail, but it is WORTH IT. Brave the crowds and get your butt out to Emerald Lake– you won’t be disappointed.


Emerald Lake RMNP-2992

NPS paved paradise, put up a parking lot. (Which is actually really convenient and has some nice restrooms as well as a staffed rangers station!)

As far as crowds go on any trail, they tend to thin out once you get to the first scenic spot, or about 1/2-3/4 miles in. This trail was no exception. Many people stopped at Nymph Lake, which is the first lake you get to along this trail. Do not do make that mistake. Dream Lake is only 1/2-3/4 miles further on, and from there you can see the breath-taking panorama in the photo at the top of this post. Wonderful, yes, but don’t stop there! When you get to Emerald Lake… holy smokes.


View from the center of Emerald Lake. Do not attempt during summer months.

I couldn’t believe how many people had stopped at Dream Lake. There were dozens of folks taking pictures there, then turning back. If you continue like 1/4 of a measly mile, you’ll get to take a picture like this…

Emerald Lake RMNP-2980

Andre climbed part way up the bowl for this shot. Look how few people got this far!


If you’re lucky you can see some back country downhill skiers climbing up the bowl and taking some runs down in deep, pristine powder. It looks incredibly fun, but also seems like… a lot of effort.

We finally almost got our gopro settings right, and were able to take a timelapse of the entire trail so you can see what it’s like for yourself. If you have 3 min and 15 seconds you should probably check it out.


Emerald Lake RMNP-2582

Even though this trail had some heavy foot traffic, I would DEFINITELY do it again. And again. And again. Can’t wait to go back in the summer!

– C. Egli

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


  1. I LOVE Emerald Lake! I was up there back in October and I’m hoping to take my snowshoes up in a week or two! Great pictures, by the way.


  2. Looks awesome. We’re doing this trail in a couple weeks.


  3. This looks like a great hike! I love the video!


  4. I will need to check this out.


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