Bear Lake trailhead is the most popular spot in Rocky Mountain National Park, with the parking lot at capacity usually by no later than 7am.
A lot of people want to hike this trail, and there’s a reason for that. With up to 4 alpine lakes, well-marked paths and dream-like views, it’s an enjoyable way to spend a day in nature.
An alpine lake is a lake at 5,000 feet altitude or more. Bear Lake Trail starts at Bear Lake, which looks like one giant mirror, reflecting both the trees and the sky. It’s extremely tranquil, even with hoards of fellow hikers passing through as well.
If you want to have a more laid back hiking experience, consider hiking this trail in the afternoon, once all the morning hikers have vacated. I went at 3pm and found parking in the main trailhead, meaning I didn’t have to deal with the transport shuttle, still arrived in time to see a ranger presentation in passing (they leave by 5) and had plenty of time to hike.
The downside of going in the afternoon is that you chance there being rain, and I definitely got a few showers before deciding to turn back. There’s 4 lakes total: Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. I only made it to Dream Lake before turning back, since the rain started to pick up at that point, around 5:30pm-6pm.
Bear Lake is the easiest lake to access since it’s just a few feet away from the parking lot. It’s also right by the ranger station and, as I mentioned, they have limited hours so make sure to ask any questions you need to before embarking on your trail.
Once you finish admiring Bear Lake, continue along the path towards Nymph Lake. I can only speculate it owes its name to its idyllic setting. It’s one of the most romantic places I’ve ever seen, covered in lily pads and providing secluded corners to sit and take in the beauty.
After you’re done marveling at the fact that a place this heavenly actually exists on earth, continue walking towards Dream Lake. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, Dream Lake was not so dreamy. The rain had started picking up and I decided, given the fact that I had gone whitewater rafting that morning, to call it a day and start heading back.
I did, however, really enjoy the natural fauna on the trek back. I saw birch trees, a giant boulder shaped like a hershey kiss, little creeks and sunset views. It was very pleasant. Not a lot of animals, surprisingly, but I went in late August and it’s possible they had learned to stay away from the crowds at that point.
If you’re planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s enter beforehand for information on parking, programming and weather for the day. They’re extremely helpful, and the Fall River Visitor’s Center even has a museum and restaurant so ti’s more of a resting ground than Beaver Meadows.
No matter what trail you choose or how you plan your itinerary, you’re sure to love your time at Rocky Mountain National Park. With views like this, how could you not??
Have a safe journey, and feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions. Till next time!