Snow + Sunrises
Trailhead: Bear Lake
Distance: 3.6 miles (easy)
One of my favorite things to do around Daylight Savings Time is to go catch the sunrise. I'm not even a little shy about my love of sleeping in, but when the sunrise isn't until 7:15 am, it's hard to resist waking up and making the drive to RMNP (though, Logan would probably argue that point). With an alarm set for 3:45 am, we got ready to go.
When we made it to the trailhead, we were pretty confident in our ability to just walk on the snow/ice combination around Bear Lake. That was stupid. At 6:50 in the morning, it was a solid sheet of ice and we looked like fools. We had to just sit down in the middle of the trail to put on our YakTrax (and get in the way of one person who was prepared before she left the parking lot) so that we could go more than 10 yards. Once we got those on, it was like night and day with our walking - we had no trouble at all getting around.
Thankfully the trails were decent enough that YakTrax were all we needed (we may or may not have forgotten our snowshoes...), so we took a quick bathroom break and headed up! I've said it before & I'll say it again - if you're going to hike to Emerald, start early. The people in the parking lot were already on their way up when we got started (earn your turns, Coloradans) and everyone else was still in bed or just then getting on their way. We saw maybe 4 other people the whole way up - and two of them were on their way back down!
There's a few reasons this trail is one of my favorites - and this view of Longs Peak is one of them.
I feel like in the two winters I've lived in Colorado, I've gotten two different ends of the spectrum. Last year, we got SO MUCH SNOW (and actually had work cancelled one day?!) and it was freezing and everything I thought a Colorado winter should be. This year...meh. Hardly any snow, temps in the 60s more often than not, and just disappointing. We snowshoed this time last year and definitely needed snowshoes. This year? Nymph Lake was already starting to thaw.
There isn't much better than rounding the corner and coming up on Dream Lake. I just love everything about this hike so much, and won't ever stop gushing about it. (Mom, if you're reading this, this is the hike I'm taking you on this summer!)
From Dream Lake to Emerald Lake, the trail was a little more difficult. If only because it was steep and the sun was starting to change the ice into slush. Some careful trail picking and breaking out the trekking poles got us up the tricky parts, though. When we made it to the lake...there was no one else there. There were some backcountry skiers, but they were so far up the couloir, they basically weren't there at all (and we didn't quite notice them until we had been sitting there for 10 minutes).
Once it got too cold to feel our fingers (even with gloves), we headed back down. Again, our perfect timing came into play because 5 minutes after leaving the lake, we passed 6 people. It was so nice to not have to share our time at the lake with anyone else.
I will never stop loving Emerald Lake.