The best hikes from Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park are the stunning lake series of Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes as well as Alberta Falls and Mill Lake. It is also nice to hike Bear Lake itself.
The Bear Lake trailhead located in the heart of the park has easy access and spectacular views. The road to the trailhead is beautiful especially in the morning and evening when elk are grazing in the fields.
The Bear Lake Trailhead is located at the end of Bear Lake Road about 10 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center (be sure to stop there first for detail hiking trails of the park). The elevation of the trailhead is 9,475 ft. and if hiking here during the summer peak season and on weekends I would definitely take the park bus shuttle to this area as it gets very crowded even in the early morning (although we got lucky twice during on stay and parked in the lot at the trailhead).
At the trailhead, there is a ranger’s station with rangers there to help answer any of your hiking questions in the area. There are also restrooms there for your convenience. There are many hikes to choose from at this trailhead and I will go over them below.
You can walk a short distance from the parking lot to get to Bear Lake. There are benches where you can relax and take in this beautiful lake. You can take the short .6 mile loop walk around the lake which is the most popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
An easy ½ mile ( 1-mile roundtrip)from the Bear Lake trailhead, you will arrive at Nymph Lake. A deep blue lake that has lots of yellow lily pads makes a beautiful hike that can be done by almost anyone. The elevation gain on this trail is only 225 feet.
It’s a great place to hike with young children and stop for lunch and relax. This is the first lake in a three lake series which we did for a nice day hike totaling 3.6 miles roundtrip.
One of the most photographed lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, Dream Lake is a total hike of 2.2 miles roundtrip and yes you will pass Nymph Lake along the way. The total elevation gain on this hike is 430 feet. The backdrop on this trail are views of Long Peak, Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak.
The last lake in the 3 series hike we did was the beautiful green waters of Emerald Lake. Make sure you go to the far end on the lake where there is a small waterfall coming off the steep mountainside. Unfortunately, we were there late in the season and there was little to no water there.
We went to Alberta Falls and Mills Lake for a day hike. We took the Spur Trail from the Bear Lake Trailhead and joined the Alberta Falls Trail. You can also start this trail at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. This trail walks along Glacier Creek by Glacier Gorge and is one of the largest waterfalls in the park. We stopped at the falls where we had lunch before continuing to Mills lake.
Mills Lake was my favorite hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. It has beautiful views of Glacier Gorge from the shoreline of the lake. The total hike was 5.6 miles and had an elevation gain of 700 feet. This lake was stunning with views of Thetchtop Mountain Peak, Longs Peak, McHenrys Peak and Chief Head Peak I could have stayed there for hours.
This was a nice level hike through the forest with beautiful views of the Continental Divide. The total elevation gain is 255 feet and roundtrip this hike is 3.2 from the Bear Lake trailhead. You can also get to the lake via the Bierstadt Lake trailhead which crosses from the Glacier Basin Park and Ride lot however its a little more of a climb that way.
When you get to the lake there is a trail that goes around the lake so you can see it from all views. This lake reminded me more of the lakes we see on the east coast with glassy marsh around it. Watch for wildlife along the trail as you are going through the woods. We were lucky enough to see a buck on our trip.
Other Hikes in the Area
When we were in Rocky Mountain National Park we hiked all of the above trails but there are many more from this location in the park you can venture to. Below is a list of the remaining hikes from the Bear Lake Trailhead.
Flattop Mountain Trail
This 8.8 roundtrip hike leaves at the Bear Lake Trailhead and is mostly all uphill with 3,000 ft elevation gain. Once there there are beautiful views of most of the lakes in this area. You also have a great chance to see marmots running around. This hike is for the experienced hiker.
If you want to continue south of Dream Lake you will reach Lake Haiyaha. This 4.2 roundtrip trail is easy with a gradual gain of 750 feet in elevation. There are lots of boulders around this lake that you can have fun climbing.
For a moderate longer hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead is Lake Helene. This 6.3 roundtrip hike has a total elevation gain of 1,294 feet. You need to follow the Spur trail markers which can be hard to find so you should have a good map of this trail before setting out.
Two Rivers Lake
This 5.2-mile hike has an elevation gain of 1125 feet. On the way there you have views of Notchtop Mountain. Follow the signs to Odessa Lake (a roundtrip hike of 8.2 miles) from Bear Lake.
Final thoughts on Rocky Mountain National Park
I hope you enjoyed this article about the best hikes from the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. This park is one of my favorite national parks and we plan to go back to explore more of it. I have to admit the altitude was very hard for us to get used too and because of it, we didn’t see as much of the park as we planned. But with its hiking, wildlife, and stunning views, Rocky Mountain should be on everyone’s bucket list!
For more information about things to do and see in Rocky Mountain National Park check out my article on Old Fall River Road.
For more information on other trails in Rocky Mountain National Park click here.
Happy Hiking, Kathy xoxo
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