librarian + adventurer


Emerald Lake

June 4

Emerald Lake
Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: 3.6 miles (easy)

If you are ever planning on doing anything in RMNP, make sure you're flexible. With my family, we had three days to do things, and knew that hiking was one of the things we wanted to do. As the time got closer for them to get out here, we went by the forecast to decide which day we would go into the park - Sunday ended up being the best day (no chance of rain until 9 pm!), so we woke up early the day after they arrived and headed to higher elevations!

We started uphill and I was beyond giddy. One of my favorite things is sharing Rocky Mountain with new people; dad has never been here and mom and Liv have only driven around and walked Bear Lake. It was so much fun to see them experience one of my favorite hikes for the first time.

We started out without any traction, partially because it wasn't necessary, but mainly so that they would have an understanding of how much Yaktrax help. After reaching Nymph Lake, we stopped and I taught my family how to put them on.

We kept heading up, passing people who didn't have traction and were slipping and sliding everywhere. 

There was a lot less snow on the trail this week, so we stopped to take our Yaktrax off before moving further. I opted to keep taking mine off and putting them back on because I have zero confidence in my ability to walk on snow without falling; everyone else kept them off until we were almost at Dream, where the snow is a constant.

The trail around Dream Lake has a lot of ups and downs; since the summer trail is still snow covered, people have just made their own path. It was fun slipping and sliding and looking at the snow underwater. There was a couple fly fishing towards the back end of the lake, and the guy almost caught one but it jumped off before he could pull it in. I love this edge season, where there's snow on the ground and people are backcountry skiing, but at the same time there's people fishing and walking around in tank tops. It's the best of both worlds, for sure.

Right before the last big uphill section to Emerald, we got out the rest of the trekking poles. It's so much easier to balance when you have a third point of contact with the ground! Liv and Logan called themselves the superior hikers and went off ahead of me, mom, and dad (hence the lack of pictures of the two of them) and were able to tell us when parts of the trail were sketchy and we should go around.

We made it to the lake to a pretty big crowd already there. RMNP and Estes Park are pretty big hubs for summer camps, so there was a giant group of teenagers hammocking off to one side. There were also 6 or 7 guys who had just skied down the mountain who were hanging out changing out of their snowpants and outer layers. We managed to snag a perfect spot on the tree there, where we relaxed and ate beef jerky. It was perfect.

We finally headed back down, eager to see what else RMNP had in store for us that day. We made fast time back to the trailhead, despite a giant traffic jam right after Nymph Lake. 

Fun fact: this is my favorite section of trail, probably on any hike ever.

SO MANY PEOPLE! This is why I always say to get to Emerald Lake EARLY!

After Emerald Lake, we did a quick walk around Bear Lake. It's hard to pass up those views of Longs with the lake in the foreground.

Overall, it was a perfect morning in the park. Like I said, one of my favorite things is to share Rocky with people, and this day was no exception. I am beyond grateful my family was able to hike this with me.